MUNICH, Germany — Jurgen Klopp has insisted Liverpool’s Champions League focus will not be diverted by “pundits from Manchester United” after rejecting claims by Gary Neville that the club’s Premier League title prospects would be boosted by a European exit at the hands of Bayern Munich.
Liverpool, currently one point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, face Bayern in the Allianz Arena in a round of 16 second-leg tie knowing that a score draw will be enough to secure a place in the quarterfinals following last month’s 0-0 draw at Anfield.
But with City still aiming to add the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup to the Carabao Cup they won last month — teeing up the prospect of an unprecedented quadruple — former United captain Neville said last week that being eliminated by Bayern would help Liverpool’s title bid.
Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, he said: “I’m going to say it: go out against Bayern Munich. That sounds like madness.
“Of course, you’d never play to lose a game, but it will be in Liverpool’s favour if they have a clean run as they can get everyone fresh.”
Yet speaking at his pre-match press conference in Munich on Tuesday, when asked whether progression would give Liverpool greater momentum, rather than drain their resources, Klopp was quick to dismiss the comments of pundits attached to United, Liverpool’s great rivals.
“I don’t think any other manager in the world other than the Liverpool manager would be asked this question when they are playing a Champions League game,” Klopp said. “The pundits come from Manchester United and start this thing!
“That is how it is. You also ask us in the FA Cup or Carabao Cup if it is better that we don’t win.
“We won’t see it like this. In the cups, we wanted to go through and we didn’t, but we want to win this game.
“The whole world is watching tomorrow night, but we want to be focused on this game. Even if it harms us [by winning], we could not change it.
“I just wish the guys who write these questions find a way in real life to make it possible and not just in the studio. It would help.
“If we win this game, it could build momentum. If we win tomorrow and play good football, it could change the world. If not, on Thursday it is over and we concentrate on Fulham.”
Klopp admitted that Liverpool’s task is straightforward against Bayern, saying: “we have [to] defend tomorrow and score … from where we score, I don’t care.”
Despite the prospect of reaching the last eight, however, the focus on Liverpool remains firmly fixed on the title race due to the club’s inability to win the English title since 1990.
But Klopp insists he and his team are not feeling the pressure of expectancy in Liverpool as they attempt to end their 29-year wait.
“The pressure and titles — if you come to England, people ask the same question and answers,” Klopp said. “But we don’t see that pressure.
“We want to be champions, of course. We are not stupid. We don’t have pressure or feel pressure, the atmosphere is great in the club.
“If people say I have to achieve success, I am happy with that. People know where we started from and where we are at.
“We feel well, we are young team and we can develop further and see where it leads us to.”
Klopp, meanwhile, voiced his surprise that Bayern trio Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng will no longer play for Germany following the decision of national coach Joachim Low to end their international careers last week.
All three were key figures in Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph and Klopp admits he cannot understand the finality of Low’s decision.
“Having a break from the national team now, they will feel more power [by playing fewer games],” Klopp said
“I am a coach myself and I think Jogi Low has the 100 percent right not to pick them because he has other players at his disposal.
“I don’t know if he can say ‘I won’t pick you ever again,’ but I don’t know how it works with the national team.
“At a club, you can say that a player will leave in the summer. I can say who leaves, but with a national team, I don’t know how it can be so determined and you can say never again.
“I understand the need to look at new generations, but we will see what is delivered in the end. That’s how coaches are measured.”