Jurgen Klopp described Liverpool’s progression into the semi-finals of the Champions League for the second successive season as a ‘big statement’ and said he was looking forward to thinking up a way to beat Barcelona.
Liverpool eventually made light work Porto, winning 4-1 at the Estadio do Dragao to advance 6-1 on aggregate, and while Klopp has Lionel Messi at the back of his mind his immediate concern is facing a rejuvenated Cardiff on Sunday.
Klopp’s team look well-equipped to continue their challenge on two fronts, with Roberto Firmino rested for the first half in Portugal before coming on to score, with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Virgil Van Dijk getting the other goals.
‘Now we are in the semi-final against Barcelona, I’m really happy about the fact we play them,’ Klopp said. ‘It is really good news that there is a competition, a proper football game between Liverpool and Barcelona. We will find things we think we could use. I’m looking forward to it.
‘To be in the semi-final for a second time in a row is a big statement. We will go there, it’s difficult, everybody tries it and nobody did it in the last few years.
‘I’m really proud of the boys, it is brilliant what they did. Doing it in different ways makes it even more special. I am really happy.’
Klopp smiled at the thought of having to halt Messi.
‘Thank god I have a few more nights to think about that,’ he said. ‘So many teams tried that but nobody really did it. We have so many jobs to do before we meet Barcelona, let’s first play these games and we will see.
‘We play on Sunday against Cardiff that’s in my mind, not how we play against Barcelona. We have enough time for that.’
Klopp gave Divock Origi his first start in Europe in three years, resting Firmino, but brought on the Brazilian at the interval to aid Liverpool’s pressing.
‘We defended as a unit in the first line not too good, we had to change it at half-time,’ Klopp explained.
‘But it was nothing about Divock. In training he is in unbelievable shape. How the game developed was perhaps not the most thankful game for a striker. That’s all.’ Klopp said Porto brought a robust approach.
‘There are a few things in football you cannot defend in the first place, the long balls in behind, the physicality, where as a defender if you make a foul it could be a free-kick or worse a penalty,’ he said.
‘We had not a great reaction on the second ball so I tried to change the system a couple of times and finally we changed it at half time to a 4-4-1-1 and that helped as we closed the centre better, they couldn’t switch the sides like they could do before.
‘We had to defend in the first half an hour a loti n the last third, that’s OK that’s not a problem. The big difference of the past is that it doesn’t cost us confidence if we have to do it. We are under pressure, no problem and after that we know we will get chances. We scored the goals.’
Klopp feels his players came through in good fitness.
‘There was a lot of drama on the pitch. Not quite the drama. It should be OK. We needed that in part of the season you see the finishing line already, you need luck with injuries and stuff like that. That is important.
‘Now on Sunday we have three days to recover and make ourselves to be ready for another intense game. Cardiff is completely back in the race with the result against Brighton so they will fight for it and I don’t think it will be less intense than tonight.’