Jurgen Klopp should ignore Jamie Carragher’s Liverpool advice after Europa League thumping

Steven Chicken
Mo Salah reacts to his goal being disallow against Atalanta
Jamie Carragher would give Mo Salah a rest for the second leg against Atalanta

Jamie Carragher has posited the notion that Liverpool should rest key first-team players for their trip to face Atalanta in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final after an awful showing at Anfield resulted in a 0-3 defeat for the Reds.

The former Liverpool defender wrote on X: ‘Awful result & performance from Liverpool, the only consolation about getting beat so heavily is Jurgen should play a full second string in the second leg & go all in for the league!’

Liverpool’s Premier League desperation should be no distraction from Europa League uphill battle

Liverpool’s obsession with the league is understandable. Despite their vast improvement under Jurgen Klopp, they have still added just one English title to the then-record-setting tally of 18 they brought up under Kenny Dalglish in 1990.

They will be desperate to draw parity with Manchester United, who perched top of English football’s domestic honours list with the new benchmark of 20 top-flight triumphs.

We say this with the greatest of respect, but you can’t overlook that the Premier League trophy was the one bit of silverware that eluded one-club man Carragher at club level, either.

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When I spoke to former Reds boss Roy Evans a few years ago, there was a palpable sense of sadness to him that he had never been able to deliver that league title himself in the 1990s, despite looking at times like they might get close.

Having won everything else in a Liverpool shirt, and missed out so narrowly in 2008/09 perhaps Carragher feels a sense of unfinished business that he would now like to see played out vicariously.

But…sacking off a cup to concentrate on the league? That’s the kind of thing fans of Championship clubs say when they’ve just been knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester City, not what you’d expect from a club that has serious ambitions of competing for silverware on every front possible.

Liverpool’s widespread injury problems are well-documented, and there was a palpable legginess to their performance on Thursday evening. Fatigue clogs not just the muscles, but the mind as well; this was a side that looked like it needed a nice long sleep in a hyperbaric chamber.

Liverpool’s track record of great European comebacks is irrelevant

It’s tempting at this stage to reel off a list of great unlikely Liverpool comebacks – some of which Carragher himself was involved in.

There’s the 1976 UEFA Cup final, when they came from two down to beat Brugge 3-2 in the first leg. The 2001 FA Cup final, when Michael Owen turned Arsenal upside down in just five minutes late on. Steven Gerrard’s late strike against Olympiacos, followed later that season by… I dunno, something about AC Milan and Turkey? We forget.

Klopp is no stranger to masterminding those moments, either. He may have come to Liverpool in 2015, but he really arrived with the stunning comeback victory to beat Borussia Dortmund 4-3 in… well, would you look at that, it says it was in the Europa League quarter-finals. Most remarkable of all: overturning a three-goal first-leg deficit to beat bloody Barcelona 4-0 in the Champions League semi-finals in 2019.

If that kind of play to history helps Klopp to inspire Liverpool’s players, then fine, by all means, talk about them. Personally, we’re not sure it’s relevant; it’s trivia for media types like us to chat about, misty-eyed old narrative fans as we are.

When it comes to the players, though, we are unconvinced that Liverpool’s badge is in some way enchanted, and that the spirit of Bob Paisley is personally visiting kindly words of inspiration into the players’ ears from a quiet corner of the dressing room.

It’s simpler than that: great teams find a way to overcome adversity, and Liverpool have simply had more great teams than most. Klopp, too, has built a very successful career out of it.

This season’s edition of Liverpool are not the finished article, and they remain a step or two behind where they were four years ago; they have simply been fortunate that Manchester City have been oddly below their own par this season, at least in the league.

But if they have aspirations of becoming undeniably great again, this is the kind of challenge they need to prove they came face up to.

More pertinently to their league aspirations: if they were to pull it off, or even go close, the regenerative effects of adrenalin could be a vital nitro-boost to a side sitting second only on goal difference. Carragher surely remembers how that works?

None of this is to say that Liverpool should expect anything out of that second leg. The odds are undoubtedly stacked against them, and the likelihood is that even with a full-strength line-up, their European exploits are effectively over this season.

But title-winning sides are not made out of a willingness to throw in the towel – and injuries or not, if Liverpool’s squad cannot cope with fighting it out in Europe as well as domestically, just like Arsenal and Manchester City are as well, then they simply do not deserve to be champions.

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