London (AFP) – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes he can now enjoy the “perfect” preparation for the Champions League final after Liverpool confirmed their spot in next year’s competition with a 4-0 rout of Brighton.
Led by Mohamed Salah’s record-breaking 32nd Premier League goal of the season, Liverpool’s victory at Anfield on Sunday secured fourth place, five points clear of Chelsea, who failed to apply any pressure in losing 3-0 at Newcastle.
Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Kiev on May 26, but can rest at ease that a return to the competition is not dependent on beating the Spanish giants.
And Klopp is now hopeful an injury-hit Liverpool squad can rest up to be at their best in Ukraine.
“Some people have asked me if two weeks is too long and I say: ‘no, it is perfect’,” Klopp said.
“That is for us like a little pre-season to the game. Everyone can imagine the boys need a bit of rest.
“This was the perfect final of the season, of a very exciting season, and a very intense season.”
Should Liverpool come out of the blocks against Madrid with the same poise and intensity that has characterised their season and blew Brighton away, then the 12-time European champions could be in for a real shock.
– ‘Oscar’ worth Salah –
Salah was once again the talisman as he fired home after 26 minutes to relieve some of the tension inside Anfield and, in doing so, he surpassed Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and Alan Shearer’s joint-tally of 31 goals in a 38-game Premier League season to add the Golden Boot to his multiple Player of the Year accolades.
“He was fantastic,” Klopp added. “I think especially the last few weeks were really difficult.
“I can’t imagine how difficult it must be if everybody tells you every day how brilliant you are but not only that, they give you an Oscar, an award for this and award for that, for getting out of the car without an accident.
“It is really difficult to stay focused but he is focused. He now has two weeks to prepare for our biggest game and now I am really looking forward to it. Now, we will be ready and this qualification gives us a big boost.”
After Salah’s intervention, Liverpool remained dominant but could not turn that into more goals until Dejan Lovren rose highest in a crammed penalty area to nod past Matthew Ryan and kill the contest off after just 40 minutes.
After the interval, Liverpool provided two further moments of cheer as Dominic Solanke slammed home his maiden Reds’ goal after 53 minutes before Andy Robertson also got his first for the club.
Brighton had already secured their survival by beating Manchester United last weekend.
But manager Chris Hughton admitted Liverpool had been far too good for his side, and wished them luck in becoming the first English side to win the Champions League in six years.
“They’re a team that we’re all hoping can win the Champions League in a few weeks time,” said Hughton.
“We would’ve taken (finishing 15th) if it had been offered to us. It’s very difficult to evaluate your best moments in the game but this is right up there because I know how difficult it is to stay up.”
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