KLOPP RAVES AF­TER BIG WIN

Liver­pool man­ager says Reds can han­dle the heat and earn top-four fin­ish

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON

JURGEN Klopp be­lieves Liver­pool’s 4-0 rout of West Ham proves they can cope with the pres­sure of fight­ing for Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion, but he warned his stars to guard against com­pla­cency.

Liver­pool’s des­tiny is in their own hands af­ter a dom­i­nant dis­play at the Lon­don Sta­dium and vic­tory over rel­e­gated Mid­dles­brough on Sun­day will se­cure a top four fin­ish in the Premier League.

If Arse­nal drop points against Sun­der­land to­day, Liver­pool will make it back into Europe’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion be­fore the last week­end of the sea­son.

“Part of our life is to han­dle pres­sure, to ig­nore the bad part of pres­sure and to use the good part of pres­sure,” Klopp said. “We drew in the last game with Southamp­ton, we didn’t score with a penalty and maybe peo­ple say then: ‘They can’t deal with pres­sure.’

“I thought we saw re­ally a con­vinc­ing per­for­mance with no doubts about any­thing. But the first sen­tence the play­ers said in the dress­ing room was: ‘One more time. One more game’.”

“We will stay fo­cused 100 per cent, we know about the dif­fi­culty of the next game, no­body will go into this game and un­der­es­ti­mate it one per cent,” added Klopp.

“Peo­ple were talk­ing about the pres­sure with the re­sults on Satur­day, but I felt very calm even in the warm-up and the dress­ing room,” Adam Lal­lana told Liver­pool’s web­site.

The Eng­land mid­fielder added: “I felt the bal­ance was right and we didn’t have to put too much pres­sure on our­selves. You only have to look at the team-sheet and it had goals, cre­ative play­ers, it had ev­ery­thing re­ally, and I felt we trusted that, we trusted our abil­ity.

“Credit to the lads. It was a big pres­sure game but the way we dealt with it was su­perb.”

Liver­pool will be heavy favourites to beat Mid­dles­brough, but Klopp warned his play­ers to stay fo­cused.

“Mid­dles­brough have had a hard sea­son, and it’s hard in a sea­son like this to en­joy football,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they’ll want to en­joy football at An­field, they’ll want to try any­thing and that makes life dif­fi­cult for us.

“If we can be as fo­cused as to­day and as flu­ent and have as good move­ments as to­day, then it will be dif­fi­cult for them.”

Klopp hailed man-of-the­match Philippe Coutinho, who scored twice and cre­ated Daniel Stur­ridge’s open­ing goal.

Divock Origi added the fourth goal but it was Coutinho who drew Klopp’s most ful­some praise.

Of­ten lost sta­tioned out on the wing, Coutinho flour­ished at the tip of the di­a­mond and he has now scored six goals in the last seven games.

“He was never a winger, he’s al­ways kind of a play­maker, it’s not in­ter­est­ing where he’s com­ing from, he needs to be at one point, in the de­ci­sive area in the mid­dle of the park,” Klopp said.

“He needs to be in shoot­ing sit­u­a­tions and fin­ish­ing sit­u­a­tions, that’s what he did to­day. Ob­vi­ously he did re­ally well in this po­si­tion.”

Stur­ridge was another to shine, scor­ing his first goal since Jan 2 af­ter an in­jury-hit sea­son.

West Ham want to sign the Eng­land striker, but Klopp said: “He gives us op­tions. His paced trou­bles teams and I thought his tim­ing was bril­liant.”

West Ham ended Tot­ten­ham’s ti­tle tilt in their pre­vi­ous match, but there was never a chance of de­rail­ing Liver­pool’s Euro­pean bid.

“I wanted the same per­for­mance as against Spurs or sim­i­lar,” Ham­mers man­ager Slaven Bilic said. “We didn’t do it. We have to be hon­est about it.

“We wanted to avoid com­pla­cency but it was ob­vi­ously there at least sub­con­sciously.

“They were bet­ter, we were nowhere near close enough. If you give time and space to play­ers like Coutinho, Stur­ridge and Lal­lana they will kill you.” AFP

REUTERS PIC

West Ham United’s Edim­il­son Fer­nan­des (left) and Liver­pool’s Philippe Coutinho bat­tle for the ball at the Lon­don Sta­dium on Sun­day. Liver­pool won 4-0.

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