Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp said on Tuesday that he is determined that unfancied Salzburg spring no surprises on Liverpool as the long-time admirer of the Austrian champions prepares for a key Champions League clash at Anfield.
Salzburg are top of Group E after thrashing Genk 6-2 in their Champions League opener two weeks ago, while the Reds are under pressure to bounce back with a win after losing 2-0 at Napoli.
Teenage sensation Erling Braut Haaland scored a sensational hat-trick in the Genk mauling and Liverpool are well acquainted with Salzburg’s development of young players, with Reds duo Sadio Mane and Naby Keita both having had spells with Salzburg earlier in their careers.
“We have to start winning and we should not waste time. It is really tough and they will surprise a lot of people, tomorrow night and in the future,” said Klopp on Tuesday.
“The way Salzburg play is made to surprise bigger teams. But if there is anybody in the world who knows most about the way they play, how they do [it], what they do, it’s probably me.
“I’ve followed their way for a long, long time. I had a similar idea when I started as a manager.”
Liverpool will again look to their fortress home ground as a lift, with Klopp’s men unbeaten at Anfield in the Premier League or Champions League since April 2017.
That form has also helped Liverpool open up a five-point lead over Manchester City in England.
But Mane insisted ending a 30-year-wait to win a league title will not be given precedence over retaining their Champions League crown.
“Both are important for me. Both are our target. We are Liverpool, we have a great team so I don’t think we should have a problem about it,” said the Senegalese, who is looking forward to facing his former club.
“It’s a special game for me. I’ve been playing for two years in Salzburg. Now I play against them and I’m sure they will be ready for me.”
Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann said he knew it would be tough settling in at Barcelona but it may have proven harder than he thought.
Barca play at home to Inter Milan on Wednesday looking for lift-off in the Champions League after a goalless draw against Borussia Dortmund made for an underwhelming start to their latest bid for success in Europe.
Griezmann also has something to prove after two steady but unspectacular months, elevated by moments rather than the consistency Ernesto Valverde would have hoped for when the Frenchman’s €120 million release clause was activated last summer.
“Against Bilbao he was not as involved as we would like,” Valverde said at the start of the season. “But it is also up to the team to allow our strikers to participate more.”
When Griezmann scored twice in the next game, against Real Betis, before tossing glitter above his head at Camp Nou, it felt like he had made his big introduction and not just because of the theatrics.
But five La Liga games have since brought only one more goal and assist while a handful of rather muted displays have left a sense of a player finding his feet, despite excelling in La Liga for the past nine seasons.
After last week’s win over Villarreal, Griezmann was asked about his start at Barcelona. “It’s different,” he said. “It’s a different type of football, a different position and I knew it was going to be difficult to adjust.
“But I feel like I’m improving every game and that’s it. Three goals, it’s not bad right? I can do better but I just arrived. I work for the team and if I can score or assist, even better.”
Griezmann has reason to defend himself. He joined a team that after five games had posted its lowest points total in 25 years, with last season’s collapse against Liverpool still lingering, not least for Valverde, whose future is never secure.
He also arrived as one of the world’s premium strikers but found his new club pursuing Neymar for the duration of the summer, as if the Brazilian might add something he could not.
There were relationships to repair too, with Barcelona’s fans and players, after Griezmann not only turned them down 12 months before but embarrassed them, by announcing his decision in a documentary.