Pep Lijnders, Alisson Becker and Jurgen Klopp (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Jurgen Klopp has urged Liverpool to turn their recent improvement into a season-saving revival as the Reds eye Champions League revenge against Real Madrid.
Klopp’s side are showing signs of finally emerging from a dismal spell that threatened to ruin their entire campaign.
Liverpool have reeled off successive victories over Everton and Newcastle to give them renewed hope of snatching a top four finish in the Premier League.
Saturday’s 2-0 win at Newcastle moved Liverpool to eighth in the league standings, within six points of the fourth-placed Magpies with a game in hand.
While it is too early to say Klopp has found remedies for everything that has ailed Liverpool throughout a traumatic season, they welcome Real to Anfield for Tuesday’s last-16 first leg with morale no longer at rock bottom.
Klopp will take that as a foundation from which to kick-start Liverpool’s bid to win the Champions League for a second time under the German.
Liverpool, six-time winners of Europe’s elite club competition, would already have more Champions League triumphs in the Klopp era if not for pesky Real.
The Spanish giants beat Liverpool in the 2018 final, eliminated them in the 2021 quarter-finals, and won last season’s final 1-0 in Paris, thanks to Vinicius Junior’s goal.
Liverpool haven’t beaten Real since a Champions League last-16 victory in 2009.
Last year’s loss was especially painful at the end of their failed quadruple chase, a quest that brought just FA and League Cup success and left Klopp’s players struggling mentally and physically this season.
Even greater scars were worn by the Liverpool fans traumatised after police used unnecessary force in ugly scenes outside the Stade de France before kick-off in the Champions League final last year.
The repercussions from those incidents are still being felt and it would be a cathartic moment for Liverpool if they could end Real’s reign as holders.
It hasn’t escaped the attention of Liverpool fans that this year’s Champions League final is in Istanbul, the scene of their against-all-odds victory over AC Milan in the 2005 showpiece.
A return to the Ataturk Stadium would bring back sweet memories for the Reds, but first they have to get past Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
After a season marred by defensive problems, Klopp takes heart from Liverpool’s second consecutive clean sheet against Newcastle, a feat they had not managed in the league since October.
“Massive, 100 percent. It explains a little bit the issues we have in the games where we can’t control it better. It’s so long ago we were in a situation like that,” Klopp said.
“It’s unfortunate that football is not like cycling, always exactly on the same level. It’s different. The only way you can get back on track is by winning.
“We’ve now done it twice in a row and that feels absolutely incredible.”
After a wretched run that featured embarrassing defeats at Brentford, Brighton (twice) and Wolves, Liverpool have given themselves a chance to get back on track.
Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo were scorers against Newcastle, but he was most encouraged by the way Liverpool fought to subdue a side that threw players forward in search of a way back into the game.
That togetherness, traditionally a trademark of Klopp’s teams, has not always been evident this season.
“We didn’t score a third and that keeps the game exciting. All credit to them, they put a proper shift in, they fought really hard,” Klopp said.
The only concern for Klopp ahead of the Real clash was the shoulder injury Nunez suffered in a second-half collision with Kieran Trippier.
“The bad news, Darwin has something on his shoulder. We will see. We need further assessment,” Klopp said.
“I don’t know in the moment. In the moment it is painful, but hopefully it’s just painful and not more.”
For once, even another injury issue could not shake Klopp’s spirits as Liverpool look towards their Real grudge match in confident mood.