Liverpool thinks they can win the Champions League according to what Dejan Lovren told the Guardians Andy Hunter.
Hunter wrote;” Liverpool flew to Marbella for warm-weather training the morning after the historic night before in Porto, carrying thoughts of where else the form that condemned the Portuguese league leaders to their heaviest European home defeat might take them. For Dejan Lovren it is Kiev and the Champions League final on 26 May. “Why not?” he asked, rhetorically. “Of course we can win it.” For James Milner it is not the location but the level that matters. As the midfielder put it: “This team can go anywhere.”
The Champions League quarter‑final awaits Jürgen Klopp’s team having to all intents sealed their passage with another emphatic European victory at Estádio do Dragão on Wednesday. In the aftermath Klopp played up the importance of the second leg against Porto on 6 March while playing down the extent of his side’s superiority in the 5-0 win. The manager left the distinct impression he feels there is more to come this season. Or, in Mohamed Salah’s case, more of the same after the Egypt international became the quickest Liverpool player to score 30 goals.
Salah’s achievements have left Roma feeling short-changed at receiving ‘only’ £36.9m for their former winger, the sporting director, Monchi, admitted. “In the end we could reach €50m with bonuses,” he said on Thursday. “I still think the price could have been better.”
Southampton might say the same in the post-Neymar transfer world, having banked up to £36m for Sadio Mané. His return to form in Portugal, with the first hat‑trick of his Liverpool career, was one of the reasons Klopp sees room for improvement in the highest‑scoring team in the Champions League this season.
“It was tough on me,” Mané said of his recent dip. “But it is part of football. I never doubted I could help the team and I never stopped working hard in training. I always tried to remain balanced, even when it was not working, because it is my job and I have to do it. As a player sometimes it is not easy for me but I never doubted myself.”
Mané is only one source of encouragement for Klopp, however. While post-match questions focused on another European rout by his team and another stellar contribution from Salah, the manager chose to highlight the impressive defensive work that provided the foundation for victory. The clean sheet was Liverpool’s third in succession on the road, a sequence they have delivered only twice in seven years, with Virgil van Dijk bringing composure on his Champions League debut for the club and sparking an impressive reaction from Lovren alongside him. It was the completeness of Liverpool’s performance in Porto that struck Milner.
The player with the most assists in the Champions League this season said: “The hardest thing in football is putting the ball in the back of the net and we have got players who can do that. The other side we have got to work on is clean sheets. We have got to manage games better. We have talked about it over the last few months as a team and with the manager as well. That, ultimately, is what wins you titles.
“You can be brilliant going forward but everyone remembers the great Newcastle team who were brilliant going forward but they never won anything. They say defences win you championships and, if we can be more solid … We have kept clean sheets recently and our game management has been good. We can still attack, attack but we can now put men behind the ball and take the sting out of games. We are improving at that and that is what is pleasing the most.
“We have got to keep improving and keep experiencing these games in Europe, the big nights that matter and learning from the process. We have had a good result and performance but there are going to be times, hopefully in the next few years, when you have got to knuckle down and fight and find a way to win. That is big game experience and being in these competitions. There is ability and talent in that dressing room but it is a young dressing room. But this team can go anywhere.”
Lovren described Liverpool’s game-management against Porto as “serious football” and evidence that lessons have been learned from letting a three-goal lead slip at Sevilla in the group stage. “When you are 2-0, 3-0 up you think it is over but it is not and you still have a lot to play,” the Croatian defender said. “We showed quality and character and from everyone it was brilliant. We have so much quality that we can beat everyone if we are on our top level – simple as that.”