Liverpool must overcome a ‘big, proud club’ in the form of FC Porto if they are to continue their Champions League journey, according to Jürgen Klopp.
European football resumes for the Reds on Wednesday night as they tackle the Portuguese heavyweights at their own home, in the first meeting of a two-legged last-16 tie.
The game is Liverpool’s first knockout match in the competition for nine years, though they enter it having topped Group E without defeat and racked up 23 goals – including two 7-0 wins.
Klopp believes this current squad has grown and learned from their European adventures under his guidance but now have to step up again to progress further.
He explained all to Liverpoolfc.com on the flight to Portugal…
On it being nine years since the club’s last Champions League knockout game
It’s a chance, but that was clear before. When we sit on the plane, we want to go to the next round. I think the lads have already done a lot of things that are special and new, but at such a heavyweight club like Liverpool it is normal that everybody will compare everything with the past, other legends and stuff like that. It’s normal.
It’s just nice to be involved, nice to have the opportunity to go to the next round. I don’t think anybody thinks we are already there – Porto are a really strong side. This game needs everything from us. It’s still possible and that’s so cool. It’s a fantastic competition and we deserve to be in it. We chose the most difficult way with our qualification, but we are in it and it’s a cool moment again.
On European experience helping the team’s development
They are important experiences for the team, but they are not the only things that are important. You cannot let your European experience grow and the rest is not important. As a team you grow with all games you play, difficult circumstances, strong opponents, showing good reactions after unlucky or deserved defeats – it all helps you grow. We just need to be open for it and not close our eyes if something doesn’t work in our favour; we need to stay open and learn from it. That’s what we’ve done so far and hopefully we can show that again. This is a tough opponent.
They are very experienced. They’re very aggressive, very physical and it will be a heated atmosphere as well, so there’s a lot we have to deal with. But they haven’t played very often against a team like us, so it’s a same problem they’ll have. They are a football-playing side, they fight like they want to show that they are there and want to go through to the next round. They are a big club, a proud club, as we are. It’s cool to be in the last 16 but we have to kick out a big one to be in the last eight.
On using his experiences at Borussia Dortmund
I don’t know now what I will say before the game. At Dortmund we had to make our own experiences; we went out early in the Europa League, then in the Champions League and then we went to the final. We’ve had our own European journey together in the Europa League. We found a way to the final. ‘Yeah, but you didn’t win it.’ Yes, right – but the way to the final was a fantastic ride. We can build on that experience. It’s always like this – Liverpool go through the group stage and we are the first to win 7-0 twice… ‘Yeah, but the group was not that strong.’ The group was not that strong because we made the group like we did, we played the games like we played them. We could have struggled against each of those teams, but we didn’t and that was a big, big compliment to the boys. Now that’s what we have to do again.