The UEFA Champions League draw, held in Monaco on Thursday, threw up some exciting fixtures with Liverpool again paired with Napoli, as well as Salzburg and Genk in Group E, evoking memories of the last campaign in the Reds’ manager.
Jurgen Klopp has shared his initial reaction to seeing his side face Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli in a repeat of last year’s group stage matchup as Liverpool prepare to begin their defence of the European Cup.
After a memorable draw ceremony which witness Liverpool stars Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker pick up outstanding individual prizes, Klopp sat down for a chat with Liverpoolfc.com and monitored by Soccernet.ng in his office at Melwood to offer his instant reaction.
“Napoli again! I don’t know how often I’ve now played against Napoli, but they’re obviously a very experienced side. I will need now to have another, closer look at Genk and Salzburg, but I already know they are very young, very exciting and very fresh, so it will be interesting, 100 per cent.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played against Salzburg or Genk, so that’s interesting. It’s how it always is, it’s not an easy group and not a group where we can hide behind anybody. We have to try everything to go through, but we are really looking forward to it like always.
“Now we know the opponents, when we were walking off the pitch from training I immediately spoke with Divock about playing Genk!
“We will do our analysis and research on all three teams, but we know they all played exceptional seasons last year. Of course, Salzburg are famous for bringing through new players, like they did with Sadio and Naby – they’ve found a lot of others, too. It will be really interesting.
Napoli defeated Liverpool by a lone goal during the group stage of the competition last year and have already gotten the better of the Anfield giants earlier in a preseason friendly this term. Klopp is understandably wary of a team he knows too well.
“Napoli are just a really good side,” Klopp continued.
“The home game we played against Napoli was one of the best games we played because it was so rock solid. It was not allowed to concede against Napoli with the strength they have in counter-attacks. The way they play is clear and it’s really good.
“In the pre-season games, when we won 5-0 in Dublin (2018) I was not interested in the result. Now this year we lost 3-0 and that’s not too interesting, but you see just how good they are. They were not complete, we were not complete, but they are a really good side.
“Carlo [Ancelotti] has such experience and has won the competition so often. When they went out last year, it was pretty close – Ali made a big save in the last seconds, so they will remember that and it will be emotional, I am pretty sure.
Salzburg and Genk complete the four teams in Group E and Klopp is quick to highlight that no side is to be treated with complacency.
“With the other two teams, I know how people are and immediately they will say these are the two ‘smaller teams’ of the group. They are not.
“I am not sure how it is for Genk, but for Salzburg they fought for so long and so hard to be part of the Champions League, so they will fight with whatever they have. They will have 30,000 in their stadium who will show how long they were waiting for it. That’s the group, so now let’s prepare for it.”