Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hopes a change of competition will give his side a break from their wretched Premier League form which has put their chances of a top-four finish in jeopardy.
A sixth successive home league defeat, this one to struggling Fulham, left the Reds well adrift of Champions League qualification having played more matches than their rivals above them.
On Wednesday they will play in Budapest again for the ‘home’ second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against RB Leipzig, holding a far-from-comfortable 2-0 lead.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 25, 2021
Not playing at Anfield – where they have now failed to score from the last 115 shots, excluding penalties and own goals – may actually be of benefit to the players considering the psychological damage which has been inflicted there.
“The next game is in a different competition where we didn’t do too bad so far, but it will be a tough one, obviously, so we have to make sure we are ready for that,” said Klopp.
“If we can go through, which is not guaranteed, then that could give confidence. Then we have Wolves, which is a tough one and then we have a couple of weeks off because of the international break and all these kind of things.
“We have to use that time, we have to hope all the boys who go to their national teams come back healthy, like always.
“Then I think there are another nine or 10 games to go, sounds like 27 or 30 points, so a lot to go for and we will try.”
Diogo Jota and Fabinho are both likely to start against Leipzig having come back from lengthy injury spells but Klopp does not believe his side will be able to recover the swagger they had over the last two seasons until everyone is fit again.
That means next season, as while captain Jordan Henderson should play again after groin surgery, his three injured centre-backs Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have been ruled out of the remainder of the current campaign.
“For winning one football game, no,” added Klopp when asked how important it was to get injured players back.
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) March 6, 2021
“For being the successful team again, for being the team we can be in the best possible way, of course we have to be complete.
“More complete than we are in the moment, that’s all clear, but that’s not what we are thinking about in the moment.
“We really think from game to game. When you are winning then people think ‘Why do you say that all the time?’ but that’s the only way.
“You have to think and to concentrate and focus on the next game and to go again.”
James Milner, leading the side in the absence of Henderson, accepts they are letting everyone down with their recent run of results – 12 points from a possible 52 since being top of the table at Christmas.
However, he said only the players could turn things around.
“It definitely hurts,” he told Sky Sports. “When you’re playing for a club with the history of Liverpool, the history we’ve created as a group of players, the standards we’ve set, we’re not hitting them at this moment in time and it’s not good enough.
“It’s disappointing and hard when you’re letting the club down and letting the fans down.
“It’s for us to keep pushing and dig ourselves out of the mess.”