Jürgen Klopp: Now is ‘not the moment’ to talk about whether Liverpool’s semifinal hopes are still alive

In what has been referred to as the worst performance of Jürgen Klopp’s tenure on Merseyside, Liverpool fell to their first home defeat since February 2023 when they hosted Atalanta on Thursday.

The Italian visitors sit sixth in Serie A, trailing the leaders by a staggering thirty points, but cruised to a comfortable victory against a Reds side that never looked comfortable in front of goal. A brace from Gianluca Scamacca was followed by a late Mario Pasalic rebounded attempt, leaving Liverpool with plenty of work to do.

Liverpool will head to Bergamo next week for the return leg, but must net at least four goals if they’re to progress through to the UEFA Europa League semifinals. Prior to Thursday’s clash, Klopp’s men had been seen as favourites to win the tournament.

Speaking post-match, the German expressed that ‘it just was a really bad game, oh my God. So we started well, really well, and then didn’t continue. I think even before they scored, we just lost the plot a little bit, like we were everywhere and nowhere.’

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Liverpool forced more chances than Atalanta but were unable to convert in front of goal, allowing ex-West Ham forward Gianluca Scamacca to open the scoring. ‘We had a big chance I think from Darwin [Nunez] and then unlucky with Harvey [Elliott],’ reflected Klopp. ‘Then they scored the goal and then we kept playing into their hands, to be honest.’

‘We played a bad game, we deserved to lose and we must feel that now. But the boys have exactly this night to feel bad about it and then we have to build up again for the Crystal Palace game, so that’s how it is. You ask me probably about the game next Thursday but there is Crystal Palace in between. So, congratulations Atalanta, really well done.’

‘Atalanta are causing many teams problems with the way they defend. Maybe I’m wrong but I cannot now remember situations where they outplayed us, it’s just they won the ball and they went from there, so it’s a good idea. You need a lot of tactical discipline to do what they did. They play that man-marking over the whole pitch – Ederson pressing whoever, Curtis [Jones] in our own box, stuff like that,’ he continued, quizzed for the reasons behind such a monumental defeat at home.

The Reds were last defeated at Anfield in February 2023, when Real Madrid claimed a 5-2 victory on Merseyside. Klopp will be keen to ensure that Thursday’s result is merely just a bump in the road, with his side remaining in the Premier League title race and trailing Arsenal on goal difference alone.

With the hectic calendar forcing Klopp to manage his squad in a desperate bid to avoid injuries, the Liverpool boss made six changes to the starting lineup before a further three swaps at half-time. The German spoke candidly about the decisions post-match, expressing that ‘that’s how it is. You lose the game then your changes are questionable. I get that, 100%.’

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‘We didn’t take off the three ‘worst’ players. That’s probably what people make of it and how the boys looked at half-time. Nobody wants to [come off]. Curtis came back from injury, you could see good moments and then, again, it was the most important training session he had now since he is back… I am responsible for this result first and foremost, I know that, but the [substitution] decision I would probably take the same.’

A four-goal mountain will prove difficult to overcome in Bergamo next Thursday, especially after Klopp piled on the praise for the manner in which Atalanta defend. Asked whether Liverpool’s semifinal hopes are still alive, Klopp merely expressed that ‘it’s not the moment to talk about that.’

What I can say already [is that] I am not in the mood to think now about a game which is in a week’s time when we have another one in between. What we definitely will [do is] try, and for that we have to play really good. We try to win the game there and then we will see what we can do from there but it’s now not the moment for having a big mouth and just telling them what we will do there.’

‘We have to play a really good game when we arrive, but this was probably a low point for us performance-wise tonight, I would say, for a long time, so I think it should be possible to play a little bit better – and if we can play a little bit better then we can play much better as well. But, first and foremost, Sunday. That is much more important now.’