Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has insisted his players will treat Cardiff and Huddersfield with exactly the same importance as they do Barcelona as they reach crunch time in their pursuit of silverware.
The Reds are through to a glamorous Champions League semi-final against Barca but though the two Premier League games that come before it do not stir the imagination in quite the same way, every point is vital to Liverpool in the title race with Manchester City.
“These are all massive games,” Klopp said. “None of them are won before we start. Everybody thinks a lot about Barcelona but before Barcelona it’s Cardiff and Huddersfield and it’s exactly the same importance to us as the other games.”
Few expect anything other than a Liverpool win at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday, but Klopp recognises the challenge of facing Neil Warnock’s side has changed in the last week.
A 2-0 victory at Brighton on Tuesday has put Cardiff back within two points of safety and gave them a new lease of life in the survival battle.
“Neil (Warnock) and Cardiff have gained a lot of confidence in the last game and rightly so,” Klopp said. “It was a massive game against Brighton, if Cardiff had lost that game then the fight for the league would be finished but now it starts again for all the teams.
“Everything came together and that’s what makes football so exciting. They believe in their chances and I would do the same so we have to show we are ready for this battle.”
On Wednesday, Liverpool soaked up considerable first-half pressure from Porto before picking them off in the counter-attack in the second half, but Warnock’s physical side will present an entirely different challenge.
“We are all aware of the difficulties of Sunday,” Klopp said. “Cardiff are used to defending with all they have. They are outstanding on set-pieces, they have a lot of physical power and they make life uncomfortable.”