Liverpool (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp’s big challenge this weekend is to keep his Liverpool players focused on Brighton when the temptation is to look towards Real Madrid.
Liverpool’s first Champions League final since 2007 offers a spectacular end to a thrilling campaign, yet there is still work to do to qualify for next season’s competition.
Fourth-placed Liverpool need to avoid defeat against Brighton at Anfield on Sunday in their final Premier League match to ensure they hold off Chelsea in the battle for a top-four finish.
While Klopp’s side have produced some exceptional performances to reach their showdown with Real in Kiev, particularly in their quarter-final victory over Manchester City and the home leg of their semi-final against Roma, their domestic form has dipped over the past month.
They have collected just six points from their past five league matches, failing to beat either of the bottom two, and their top-four place suddenly started to look wobbly after last Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Chelsea.
In the end, Klopp was grateful to a favour from the person who was best man at his wedding –- the Huddersfield manager David Wagner — whose side earned a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to damage fifth-placed Chelsea’s chances of overtaking Liverpool.
Klopp has suggested he will resist the temptation to rest Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk or any of his other key players in order to keep them fresh for the Champions League final, noting the fact that it does not take place until 13 days after the Brighton game.
“As long as we are not 100 percent in the Champions League, this last game is the most important of the season,” he said.
“I’ve said it a few times, all the things we’ve done so far have built a basis, we have to use the basis. The basis is obviously good because if we win against Brighton we are in the Champions League.
“That’s good but there is still a job to do. I have no problem with that. That’s the situation but it’s no problem to play the game, we have to play it anyway so now we have to win it, that’s it.”
– Confident Salah –
Much of the focus at Liverpool remains on Egypt forward Salah, who won three player of the year awards on Thursday –- two given to him by his club, and one by the Football Writers’ Association.
Salah, who has 43 goals for Liverpool this season, has been a little below his best lately, and is without a goal in three matches.
There is a sense that he is one player who could do with a break, but there is little sign of him getting one, as he prepares to join up with his international squad for the World Cup shortly after the Champions League final.
While his goals have become less frequent, his fellow forwards have not entirely managed to plug the gap.
Having scored in all but one league match in the first three months of 2018, Liverpool have failed to find the net in three of their past five top-flight games.
Salah, though, always carries a threat, and has promised that he is in good shape to rediscover his best form as Klopp’s side look to secure two wins that will turn a very good season into an unforgettable one.
“I’ve not scored for two Premier League games but I’m fine,” Salah said.
“We have a game on Sunday then the Champions League final and I’m sure we will help each other.”
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