Jürgen Klopp has ruled out the possibility of Liverpool prioritising the Champions League over the Premier League despite that approach increasingly looking like their best route back into the competition next season.
Defeat to Chelsea on Thursday made it five successive home league defeats for Liverpool for the first time in the club’s 129-year history and left them in seventh place and four points off the top four going into Sunday’s game against Fulham.
It is some comedown for the champions and there is no escaping the feeling that, given their form and injury crisis, Liverpool could miss out on qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in five years. One way they can guarantee their place in the competition is by winning it and while that appears unlikely it cannot be ruled out given Liverpool’s excellent European record under Klopp.
Encouragement can also be taken from their form in the Champions League this season – Liverpool comfortably topped their group and hold a 2-0 lead over RB Leipzig going into the second leg of their last-16 tie in Budapest on Wednesday.
Klopp refuses to take progress to the quarter-finals for granted, however, and said that even if it proves the case he will not contemplate resting players for league games to ensure they are as fit and fresh as possible for ones in Europe.
“That will never happen,” he said. “There is no game we can play and lose and say: ‘It was because of the lineup.’ Liverpool is too big and too many people are interested in us.
“We don’t play behind closed doors, really – without cameras and where you can only read in the newspaper how the result was. It’s in front of our people and we feel the responsibility that in each game we have to give absolutely everything to win it. We do not change our attitude.”
Klopp’s stance is somewhat of a contradiction given he did rest players during the latter stages of Liverpool’s run to the 2016 Europa League final. But in fairness to the German, that came at a stage when his teamthey stood no chance of a top-four finish, whereas this season there remains hope.
However, with games running out Liverpool need to go on a winning run soon if they are going to climb the league and there would be no better time to start than against a Fulham side who travel to Anfield after some encouraging performances but having won twice in 19 games. For Liverpool, a sixth successive home loss is simply unthinkable.
“The only thing we can do is work as hard we can, fight as much as we can and play as good as we you can to win games,” said Klopp. “That changes everything.”