Reds can leverage on elite status

Midfielder Emre Can scoring Liverpool's third goal against Hoffenheim on Wednesday at Anfield. The Reds won 6-3 on aggregate.
Midfielder Emre Can scoring Liverpool's third goal against Hoffenheim on Wednesday at Anfield. The Reds won 6-3 on aggregate.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Klopp to convince targets to join club after qualifying for Champions League group stage

LONDON • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp voiced hope that guiding his team back into the Champions League will strengthen his hand in transfer talks over the last week of the window.

The English football club - five-time European champions - secured a place in the group stage for only the second time since 2010 after a 4-2 home win over German side Hoffenheim on Wednesday completed a 6-3 aggregate play-off victory.

Klopp has managed to bring in only Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson and Dominic Solanke in this transfer window and he suggested there could be more new faces now that Liverpool are back among the elite.

"It's a big influence on the transfer market, especially if you do it more often," he said at Anfield.

"If you talk to players, they say, 'If you play Champions League it would be really interesting.' Even if you try to extend a contract with a player in the squad, they say, 'I want to play Champions League'.

"I always think, 'It's your job to do it with us together. Do it with us together.' That's what this team did and that's why I'm so pleased. Fourteen months of hard work and we did it. Nice."

Appointed in October 2015, Klopp was unable to steer Liverpool into the Champions League in his first season in charge as they finished eighth in the Premier League, but a fourth-place finish last term opened the door to a return.

IN THE BIG LEAGUES

It's a big influence on the transfer market, especially if you do it more often. If you talk to players, they say, 'If you play Champions League it would be really interesting.'

JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, on how being in the Champions League main draw will help the club attract top signings.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg, the Reds flew out of the blocks on Wednesday, scoring three times in the opening 21 minutes through an Emre Can brace and a Salah effort.

"The start of the game was like a thunderstorm," said Klopp. "If you win away 2-1 in the first leg the opponent can imagine that you will sit back and wait to counter-attack in the second leg.

"We thought it would make sense to do it differently, with high pressure. We did it really well."

He hailed Can for overcoming the effects of illness to play and reserved special praise for Roberto Firmino, who created Can's second goal and scored Liverpool's fourth against his former club.

"Roberto Firmino!" the German exclaimed in his post-match press conference. "What a game he had."

Liverpool were helped by the decision of Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann to field a three-man central defence that included a midfielder, Havard Nordtveit, who looked uncomfortable in the role.

Nagelsmann replaced Nordtveit, the former West Ham player, after only 25 minutes, but the damage was already done.

Klopp said: "We went for high pressure. Usually, when a team goes 3-0 that early, there is a break in that pressure, which I don't like. But Julian Nagelsmann made a change that was brave. They could have conceded more goals that way.

"This game was crazy and could have ended 9-7, but even then we would have been in the group stage and deserved it."

Nagelsmann, whose side scored through substitute Mark Uth and Sandro Wagner, refused to accept that his tactics were to blame for his team's defeat. Instead, he suggested that his players failed to implement his game plan properly.

The 30-year-old said: "We were running around like headless chickens. Liverpool played as they did in the first leg. We had far too many gaps. Maybe the team were too emotional. For the first 20 to 30 minutes, there were two or three players who didn't seem to be on the pitch at all."

Hoffenheim were playing in Europe for the first time and will now drop into the Europa League.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2017, with the headline 'Reds can leverage on elite status'. Print Edition | Subscribe