Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool deserve their place in the Europa League semi-finals because they “respected” the tournament.
The German tactician insists he does not need to tell his players the importance of their semi-final first leg in Villarreal on Thursday night as they have more than proved their hunger for the competition.
After dramatically beating Borussia Dortmund in the previous round Klopp’s side were immediately installed as favourites, while fellow Premier League outfit Tottenham rested players and were thumped 5-1 on aggregate by Dortmund in the round of 16.
However, the Reds boss has stressed there has been no talk of a possible final appearance in Basle next month.
“It is important to understand my players came into a semi-final because they were always ready for the moment and never thought about the next round,” he said.
“It is important I show the players the respect they earned, which means I don’t need to speak to them about things they did well.
“We are here because we respected this tournament each round. There is no doubt from my side.
“Villarreal did the same until now so it is not about talking about the final.
“Villarreal show the highest level of football each week; the Spanish league is unbelievably strong and they play with such balance, structure and discipline and if you let them they play football.”
Liverpool’s European campaign has been at odds with their domestic form and Klopp is undefeated in 10 European games as manager – only Joe Fagan (12) has a longer unbeaten run in Europe from the start of a managerial reign than the German.
However, they will take nothing for granted in Spain and even a goalless draw away from home may not be enough for Klopp.
“If we are really good and should win why should I be satisfied with a draw?” he added.
“It is not one per cent preparation for the game thinking about the result.
“It is always about the performance. The result is always the result of the performance, nothing else.
“We only need to think about what we do and there is nothing to think about results.”