Having seen his side follow up victory in the Merseyside derby by dropping two points at home to Bournemouth, coming back from a goal down at Stoke was, Klopp said, vital for Liverpool’s hopes of returning to European football’s elite competition.
“Job done, 63 points and I couldn’t feel any better,” he said after a victory that put Liverpool nine points clear of Arsenal in fifth, who have two games in hand. “Now we have a very long week. No team in the world wins only the very, very good games. You need to win games like this.”
He added: “This is a massive win. If we had only drawn it would have felt like a defeat. We have won a few games like this but this is really special and you could feel it in the dressing room. We all worked very hard and we are really happy.”
Although his team selection appeared bewildering, with Divick Origi and 17-year-old Ben Woodburn leading Liverpool’s attack, Klopp explained he thought it impossible to start with Philippe Coutinho, who had been suffering from illness, and Roberto Firmino. Both came on at half time and each scored a goal that overturned Jonathan Walters’s first-half header for Stoke.
“Neither Roberto nor Phil was ready for 45 minutes,” said Klopp. “Phil had played against Manchester City, gone to Brazil, come back for the derby and he had lost three kilos in weight in three days – that would be a good thing for most of us but not for Phil.
“He came over to me in the hotel this morning and said: ‘I’m fine’ but we knew that, if he started, he would have very low energy levels. We thought he could play for about 30 minutes.
“It was not my intention to make two changes at half time but the alarm clock was ringing and we needed to make some changes. I thought a lot about my decision and I thought we could have played much better than we did.”
It gave Klopp no pleasure that the two players to make way for Firmino and Coutinho were Liverpool’s two teenagers, Woodburn and Trent Alexander-Arnold. “I didn’t like to do it but the situation demanded it,” he said.
“We didn’t defend like we usually do so we couldn’t play high pressure and Stoke scored. There were too many long balls and nobody seemed to know the system. It didn’t look like the best days of their (the two teenagers’) lives. They will be disappointed but we will help them.
“I thought Ben did his job because the foul on him (from Erik Pieters) was a clear penalty. He was in the position to win the penalty so he had done his job and it is not their job to be the best players on the pitch. They are fantastic boys.”