Jurgen Klopp urged his Liverpool players not to succumb to the hype generated by their own scintillating performances after they crushed Spartak Moscow to reach the Champions League knockout rounds.
Liverpool’s ‘Fab Four’ shone in a 7-0 trouncing of Spartak on Wednesday, with Philippe Coutinho scoring a hat-trick, Sadio Mane claiming a double and both Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah finding the net.
But having seen his team crash 4-1 at Tottenham Hotspur after thrashing Maribor 7-0 earlier in the group phase, Klopp is desperate for his men not to ease up ahead of Sunday’s derby clash with Everton.
“We showed tonight that we learnt from the mistake we made in Seville,” Klopp said, referring to Liverpool’s 3-3 draw against Sevilla on their previous Group E outing, when they had squandered a 3-0 lead.
“Now we have to show that we learnt from the mistake we made after Maribor when we faced Tottenham. We will be ready again on Sunday and if the crowd are ready to help us, it would be nice again.”
A brace from Coutinho, the first a penalty, and an opportunistic Firmino strike put Liverpool 3-0 up inside 18 minutes and they turned the screw after half-time.
Mane and Coutinho struck in quick succession, the latter completing his first Liverpool hat-trick, before further neatly worked goals from Mane and Salah took the team’s goal tally to 32 in nine matches.
Klopp could not disguise the extent to which he had enjoyed watching his team, saying they had scored “fantastic goals, unbelievably nice goals”, but there was an accompanying note of caution.
“We should not think it will be like this from now on until the end of our entire lives,” he said.
Emre Can received a booking that rules him out of the first leg of Liverpool’s last-16 tie and Klopp admitted an injury that forced left-back Alberto Moreno to limp off in tears had further dampened the mood.
“We come to the little shadow tonight that Alberto Moreno needed to get substituted,” said Klopp.
“It was a strange situation. He’s a tough guy and if he cannot continue the game, then we should consider it could be something serious.
“In the treatment room he was a little bit more positive, so maybe we are lucky and it’s not too serious.”
– ‘Learn a lesson’ –
As group winners, Liverpool should theoretically receive a kinder draw in the last 16, but with Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid among their potential opponents, Klopp does not expect any favours.
“I think it’s really strange this year in the group phase,” said the German after Liverpool ended a nine-year wait to reach the knockout phase.
“In the last 16 of the Champions League, they’re always strong sides, but this year it’s quite special.
“I don’t think you can often face Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and Juventus in the last 16 if you win the group. And all the others. That’s quite interesting.
“(Chelsea manager) Antonio Conte said it yesterday: there are no easy opponents.
“I don’t think anybody will be happy when they get us in the draw, so we will not be happy when we see who we will face in the next round. But we will be ready, that’s for sure.”
Spartak coach Massimo Carrera, whose team dropped into the Europa League, issued a scathing verdict on his side’s performance, saying his players had “almost played like they were afraid”.
But he said playing in the Champions League had been a broadly positive experience.
“If we forget today’s result, our campaign went pretty well,” said the Italian, whose team face city rivals CSKA Moscow this weekend.
“We knew it would be a good result to go through to the Europa League and we achieved it.
“We’ll try to forget this game for now, but we’ll try to learn a lesson from it.”