Klopp relishes ex-Reds reunion

Defender Virgil van Dijk heading in the final goal to seal Liverpool's 4-1 Champions League quarter-final, second-leg win over Porto for a 6-1 aggregate victory at the Dragao Stadium in Porto on Wednesday night. PHOTO: REUTERS
Defender Virgil van Dijk heading in the final goal to seal Liverpool's 4-1 Champions League quarter-final, second-leg win over Porto for a 6-1 aggregate victory at the Dragao Stadium in Porto on Wednesday night.PHOTO: REUTERS

Visit of Barca's Coutinho, Suarez special but Champions League semis not 'friendly game'

PORTO • May 7 will be a date marked on the calendar of every Liverpool fan.

Not only will Anfield host the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona in what promises to be "a proper football game", the club will also welcome back two Reds "legends", Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez, for the first time since their exits.

Despite the acrimonious manner of their departures - Suarez in 2014 and Coutinho last year with both agitating for a Nou Camp move - they still hold a "special" place among the Anfield faithful.

However, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will not let sentiment cloud his tactical preparations as it will "not be a friendly game".

After crushing Porto 4-1 away on Wednesday, he said that while his focus was now back on the bid to end a 29-year English title drought, he was relishing the reunion with the former fan favourites.

Strikes from Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk completed a 6-1 aggregate victory, with Eder Militao scoring for the Portuguese champions on the night.

The German said: "Honestly, the only thing I'm thinking about is Cardiff on Sunday. But I can answer the question because it was clear since yesterday that if we win it, we will play these boys.

"For them, for these two boys, it's very special. For us, it's special. But we have to fight, we have to work, they will do it as well.

  • 10

    Jurgen Klopp's unbeaten streak in two-legged European fixtures as Liverpool manager.

  • 2

    Second straight season Liverpool are in the semi-finals of the Champions League. They were beaten in the final by Real Madrid last year.

"It's so wonderful that you play with Liverpool against Barcelona in a European semi-final, that itself is a wonderful message, and now let's try to do the best.

"We fly tomorrow (to Wales) and make ourselves ready for another intense football game."

Klopp, whose unbeaten streak in two-legged European ties as Reds boss now stands at 10, was delighted by his players making a "big statement" by reaching the last four for the second year running.

He added: "I am really proud of the boys for what they did. We won the game and now another semi-final. It's unbelievable really, something crazy."

The Reds will head to Spain for the semi-final first leg on May 1.

While it has been six years and 31 games since Barcelona have lost at home in the competition, Klopp is confident they will still be in contention come the reverse fixture as long as Lionel Messi's influence can be limited.

Especially since the Argentinian has been a nemesis of English clubs, scoring 24 goals in 32 matches against them, more than any other player.

Jokingly thanking God he did not have to think about that on Wednesday, the 51-year-old Klopp added: "I have a few more nights to think about that. Everybody tried it so far and nobody can do it. We will still try it. We are looking forward to it, but we have so many jobs to do before we meet Barcelona."

Liverpool, with eight straight wins in all competitions since the 0-0 EPL draw at Everton on March 3, have momentum on their side as they dream of winning the league and the European Cup in the same year - a feat they last achieved back in 1984.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2019, with the headline 'Klopp relishes ex-Reds reunion'. Print Edition | Subscribe