Jurgen Klopp has sent a simple message to his players: prove you’re good enough for the Champions’ League.
Liverpool face a simple equation on Sunday: win and guarantee a place at Europe’s high table, fail to win and risk missing out on the top four place that confirms the progress the Reds have made.
For their German manager, defeat against Boro in this £20m+ shoot-out (the minimum a Champions’ League run will bring) is unthinkable, and he offered an insight into the message he will send to his side.
“We need to perform to win. If we win we deserve to be in the Champions’ League, if we don’t, then we don’t deserve. It is simple.
“Maybe we can say in the middle of next season that (this victory) was the start of a new era (for Liverpool). But you can think about these things later. But this is a football game, you have to respect the 90 minutes and your oppnents, and the rest we can think about later.”
Klopp is adamant that winning on Sunday and finishing fourth – or third if Manchester City drop points at Watford – will be a massive boost to the club’s finances and their ability to attract players.
But he is certain that Liverpool have made giant strides in the last year anyway, and that the Champions’ League is just “the icing on the cake”, with the Reds in a strong financial position to buy top players anyway.
“Champions League is a wonderful competition. You can earn a lot of money there, that’s money we didn’t have last year. That is very interesting and is one part of it but we are already in a good position,” he said.
“We are a club without financial problems and we have money to spend but it makes sense to think before we spend and that is what we are doing.
“When I said we want to make this team better that is every year but what I wanted to say was it is not that easy because we already have a good side. When we have out first 11, 12, 13, 14 players are fit then the world is not full of players who will make us better immediately, but clearly there are a few out out there and we have spoken to them.”
Klopp also said that it would be stupid to sign players who only wanted Champions’ League football…even if the Reds do as expected and make the competion for only the second time in eight years.
“The players (signings) are really positive this year compared to last year – it was different because they have seen our way, our football and that is good,” he said.
“The Champions League would be the icing on the cake but that’s it not more. It should not sound negative but if Champions League is the only reason why a player is coming it makes no sense for him or for us because one year of not qualifying and the player decides [he] wants another Champions League club.
“It is important for players because that is what they want to play but it is the progress and development and positive perspective of a club is important for players, and we are powerful in a lot of parts of the game.
“We will be successful in the future but for this we need the players, of course. We have very good players and we need a few more.”
Klopp revealed that Roberto Firmino will have a late fitness test on a muscle injury, but is expected to be cleared to play at Anfield.