Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp now has to hope that Anfield will again bring the best out of his team in their decisive final Champions League group game against Napoli after Wednesday’s damaging defeat at Paris Saint-Germain.
Last season’s runners-up are in serious danger of a group-stage exit from the competition after losing 2-1 to a Neymar-inspired PSG at the Parc des Princes, as Klopp was outmanoeuvred by his opposite number Thomas Tuchel.
The result left Liverpool in third place in Group C with one game left, three points behind Napoli and two adrift of PSG.
Given the tight nature of the group, the Premier League side now have to beat Napoli at Anfield either 1-0 or by two clear goals if they are to be sure of reaching the last 16, otherwise, they will be left hoping for a PSG slip-up at Red Star Belgrade.
But while Wednesday’s defeat was Liverpool’s fifth in a row away from Anfield in the Champions League, they have not lost at home in the Premier League or in Europe for 18 months, so Klopp has reason to be confident.
“Of course, I know that, we need a great atmosphere which is pretty special,” said Klopp, looking ahead to the game on December 11.
Napoli will need a draw themselves to ensure progress to the next round. The Italians beat Liverpool 1-0 at home in October and have since drawn twice with PSG.
Liverpool supporters looking for inspiration will recall what happened back in 2004-05 — that season Rafa Benitez’s team won the trophy, but only after Steven Gerrard’s stunning goal in their final group game against Olympiakos gave them a 3-1 victory they needed to advance.
“Napoli is a really strong side, they played here well, they played against us really well, although we were not that good that night,” Klopp said.
“We have to make a special night of it 100 percent if we want to go through.”
– ‘Different cup of tea’ –
Liverpool were blown away in the first half at the Parc des Princes and failed to recover after Juan Bernat and Neymar scored to put PSG in control.
A James Milner penalty on the stroke of half-time gave the visitors hope, but they could not get an equaliser after the break and Klopp was left to bemoan “not sportsmanlike behaviour” from the home team.
He felt PSG — and chiefly Neymar — play-acted to buy time in the second half, as the away side ended the game with six yellow cards.
“It’s just hectic all the time, everyone is going down, it’s not football anymore, but it was an important game and everybody tries to do it like that,” said an exasperated Klopp.
The German could also justifiably complain that PSG’s Marco Verratti should have been sent off for a dangerous tackle on Joe Gomez in the first half, but the reality was that Liverpool were well beaten as Neymar inspired the hosts.
Their form abroad remains in stark contrast to their domestic performances, as they remain unbeaten in their best ever start to a Premier League campaign.
There are three domestic games to come before the Napoli decider, starting with the small matter of the Merseyside derby at home to Everton on Sunday.
“This game is isolated from the season. It’s the derby, it’s at home, Everton is doing really well this season, they are a completely different cup of tea I would say to the last three years, so it will be a tough one and we have to be 100 percent spot on,” Klopp insisted.
“It’s not about showing reactions, it’s about carrying on, go, go, go. Sunday we will be ready again.”
as/gj (Additional editing by Sean McMahon)
© Agence France-Presse