Jürgen Klopp believes Manchester City did not see the best of Liverpool on Sunday and could face a sterner challenge when the rivals meet again in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.
The Liverpool manager made seven changes from the 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Benfica, while City survived a bruising encounter at Atlético Madrid, including 12 minutes of stoppage time, before also reaching the semi-finals. Klopp disputes that the contrast in preparations will enhance Liverpool’s prospects at Wembley, but he expects improvement from his team regardless because, in his opinion, they fell short in several departments in the Premier League encounter.
Klopp said: “We had it last week before we played City. We had an away game [in Lisbon] and arrived home in the middle of the next day. Travelling is intense, definitely. Will it give us at advantage? I have no idea.
“We will see. It was for both teams intense [on Wednesday]. City was really strong last week and we were not at our best, so I would like to see a game where we are at our best as well. That would be interesting.
“The boys did a lot of good stuff in the game, but I really think in a couple of positions we are able to perform on a completely different level and I think we should give that a try. And it’s a Cup game, a one-off. If it’s 2-2 again, it’s 120 minutes and if it stays like that it’s penalties and that would be really crazy if it goes all the way.
“I want to have 12 games from now until the end of the season and be in the finals. It’s tough but it’s still the best schedule to have because it means you are in all the competitions as long as possible. I’m really looking forward to the game. Wembley is a big pitch, we have to cover a lot of grass and run a lot and close big gaps, but I think it will be cool.”
Diogo Jota is Liverpool’s only fitness concern, although Klopp expects the Portugal international to recover from the knock sustained against Benfica. Klopp admits he and Pep Guardiola have made tactical changes to stifle each other in recent years, but not at the expense of quality entertainment.
“Over the years you notice changes,” he said. “We had some decent counterattacks in the past and then Pep decided full-backs couldn’t go past the halfway line. We did similar things, we try to deny them as well. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.
“There are decisive challenges in a game and you better win them otherwise they are in a really good position. We lost a couple of easy balls in the City game a few days ago and what they made of it was spectacular, like the counter in the first minute when Ali [Alisson] made a great save from [Raheem] Sterling. It’s just good football, but the goals we scored were really good situations as well.
“It’s a really intense fight on a really high level. The concentration levels that all the boys have to bring on to the pitch is insane. When tactical things match each other it can be tactically really interesting, but horribly boring for the neutral. That rarely happens in games between City and Liverpool and that’s good for all the fans who watch.”