LIVERPOOL, May 7 – Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool have not given more to their efforts in Europe than they have in the Premier League as he prepares to send out another below-strength side against Watford on Sunday.
Klopp has guided Liverpool to the final of the Europa League against holders Sevilla after they saw off Villarreal 3-0 in Thursday’s semi-final second leg at Anfield to go through 3-1 on aggregate.
Inevitably, that leaves Klopp’s focus on the final in Basel on May 18, when Liverpool will be looking to win their first European trophy since 2005 and also secure a place in the Champions League.
That appears to be Liverpool’s only route into European competition for next season as they are now eighth in the Premier League, although Klopp does not believe his players have saved their best for Europe.
“I don’t think there is a big difference, to be honest. I think it is a little bit about timing, a little bit about luck at specific moments,” Klopp said.
“We had similar games in the Premier League, but not in a row. 2016 is quite a successful season for Liverpool and the team.
“The Europa League has given us the opportunity to maybe qualify for the Champions League.
“But on the other side, it has cost the opportunity of qualifying for the Champions League in the Premier League because of the number of games, (as well as) going to the final of the League Cup and the injuries and circumstances we’ve had.
“I’m sure there was no difference in attitude with the Premier League, the Europa League or any other tournament.
“These boys always gave their all but sometimes it was not 100 per cent because they couldn’t.”
– Intense –
Liverpool lost at Swansea last Sunday as Klopp rested a number of key players between the two legs of their semi-final.
And that is again likely to be the case against Watford, who beat Liverpool 3-0 at home in December in a performance Klopp rates, alongside the one at Swansea, as the worst of his seven-month reign at Anfield.
“We will have a few changes again but we will try to do everything to win this game because we respect this league,” Klopp added.
“We want to have the best position we can get at the end of the season. We don’t have to rest players on Sunday for Wednesday, 10 days later.
“It’s about the game on Thursday, which was quite intense. We need to think about this and not Wednesday-week.”
Liverpool are still without injured striker Divock Origi and captain Jordan Henderson, with Klopp suggesting they need to return for the final league game against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday-week to be in with a chance of facing Sevilla.
Meanwhile, Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores is unexpectedly heading into the final games of the season with his future in doubt despite maintaining the club’s Premier League status and guiding them to the FA Cup semi-finals.
A poor run in the league since the turn of the year has brought just four victories and prompted Hornets owner Gino Pozzo to consider instigating the 12-month break clause inserted into Flores’s two-year contract last year.
Flores has already been linked with a return to former club Valencia, but the Spaniard insists it is by no means certain he will leave Vicarage Road.
“The contract says in the last part of May, both sides can decide. We are not worried about anything,” he said.
“This is the spirit of contract. It’s important. We have possibility to decide if we are in the right way. We take decisions together.
“I don’t want to talk more about my contract. I’m thinking about the match with Liverpool on Sunday.
“I want to transmit how happy I am at Watford.”