‘If we fail, fail in the most beautiful way’: Klopp calls for special Liverpool display

<span>Jürgen Klopp says if <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Liverpool;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Liverpool</a> go through ‘then something special will have happened’.</span><span>Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images</span>

Jürgen Klopp evoked memories of Liverpool’s famous Champions League comeback against Barcelona before their Europa League quarter-final second leg with Atalanta and said: “If we fail, then let’s fail in the most beautiful way.”

Liverpool find themselves in a similar predicament to that unforgettable 2019 semi-final second leg with a 3-0 deficit to overturn against the Italian team on Thursday. Klopp was reluctant to draw comparisons with the Barcelona game, on the basis of Liverpool’s poor performance against Atalanta last Thursday and the absence of the Anfield factor. But he admitted the situation reminded him of a line he used in a rousing pre-match speech before the 4-0 triumph over Lionel Messi and co, and urged Liverpool to give everything to rescue their Europa League campaign.

“I remember I said: ‘If we fail, then let’s fail in the most beautiful way,’” the Liverpool manager said. “And that’s exactly how I see it again. If we want to win, we better play good. If we play good, we have a chance to win it and then we will see.

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“After last week’s game everyone in the stadium thought: ‘That’s it.’ But since then, a week later, I don’t think everybody thinks it’s already decided. We can be good. Obviously we can be not so good as well. Let’s see what we can put on the pitch tomorrow.”

Liverpool must achieve a first to prevent Klopp’s European adventures ending at the foot of the Alps in the 21,000-capacity Stadio di Bergamo. The club have never reached the next round of a European competition after losing the first leg at home. It is testament to Liverpool’s rich European pedigree that Atalanta last week became only the fourth visiting team to win a first leg at Anfield.

A more pertinent statistic, perhaps, certainly in relation to what is required in Bergamo, is that Klopp’s team have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine matches and none away from home in the Europa League this season. The lapses that contributed to successive defeats by Atalanta and Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday cannot be repeated.

“We should play a really good Liverpool game,” said Klopp, who is without Conor Bradley and Ryan Gravenberch due to injury. “We are usually a well-organised team and if we want to win the game we’d better not concede. That’s a big part of the match-plan tomorrow.

“We played into their hands last week. With specific runs we would have caused them more problems, but tomorrow is more difficult because they don’t have to score at all. But it’s not easy to approach a game when you are 3-0 up. We had it last time against Atalanta [after winning 5-0 in a Champions League group game in November 2020] and lost 2-0 at home. We didn’t know what to do with the result and didn’t fight for everything as usual. We will see who deals better with the situation. If Atalanta go through then they will deserve it. If not, then something special will have happened.”

Atalanta are attempting to reach a European semi-final for only the second time in their history. Their one appearance so far came in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987‑88 when competing as a Serie B club. Gian Piero Gasperini, the Italian club’s seasoned coach, captured the sense of occasion but also the jeopardy that the second leg might bring.

“We know that it will be one of the most important games in our history, if not the most important,” Gasperini said. “Our goal has to be not thinking about the result of the first leg. We have to play as if we are starting 0-0. I expect the best Liverpool possible. Liverpool are a great team regardless of their recent defeats. They remain one of the strongest teams in the world.”