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Jurgen Klopp knows not to treat “really special” Leeds lightly

Jurgen Klopp admitted the pressure is on his Liverpool side as they bid to force their way back into the Premier League’s top four.

After Real Madrid ended their Champions League ambitions on Wednesday, Liverpool’s only route into next year’s competition is via the league.

But Klopp’s men have been outside the top four since early February when a run of six defeats in seven was beginning, and they slipped to eighth before winning their last three in the league.

With only one goal on the agenda for the rest of the campaign, Klopp’s message to his players is clear.

“We just go for it, go and go and go and play our best football,” he said. “We are of course under pressure as we want to finish in the top four but we don’t know in the moment if we will. We have seven games to prove that and we will try.”

Both Liverpool and Leeds will be bidding for a fourth straight league win when they clash at Elland Road on Monday night, with United coming off an impressive victory away to leaders Manchester City last weekend where they played half the match with 10 men.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2020: Leeds United's Jack Harrison celebrates after scoring the first equalising goal to level the score at 1-1 during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“We should not forget the opponents we face,” Klopp added. “We won the last three and that’s why we’re still around, still in the fight for the Champions League spots.

“It’s clear we have to win football games. It would be best to win all of them, but they are tough opponents and we have to respect all of them.

“We have to win games and put pressure on teams. That’s all we know and we will try.”

Leeds have climbed to 10th after last week’s the dramatic victory at the Etihad, secured with Stuart Dallas’ stoppage-time strike, and Klopp called Marcelo Bielsa’s side “the most different team in the league” in terms of the challenges they present.

“This Leeds team is really special,” he said. “They are not the most experienced team in the world but they have a very experienced manager.

“Most of the players are playing the Premier League for the first time so they have to go through a process.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 10, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (C) chats with Ozan Kabak (L) and Nathaniel Phillips (R) during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Against City they could have scored seven, eight, nine (after going down to 10 men), on another day City score that, but they defended it really well. It was exceptional but Leeds are a really good side managed by one of the best and that obviously helps.”

Liverpool’s recent strong form domestically has been helped by the developing partnership between Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips, who have won the four Premier League games they have started together and offered a solution to Klopp’s injury-ravaged defence.

“Using the information you have just given me I’d better start them in the next game as well,” Klopp said when asked about their record.

“These things have to develop. There was never a question about their quality, the boys have quality but you have to bring it together.”

Among their tasks at Elland Road will be stopping Patrick Bamford, who has caught Klopp’s eye with 14 goals in 31 league appearances for Leeds this season, scoring at Anfield on the opening day in Leeds’ 4-3 defeat.

“He is a top player,” Klopp said. “I remember before the season I heard people say that Leeds need a proper goalscorer and that Bamford was not good enough so I am happy he could prove them all wrong.

“He’s an exceptional player. The work-rate is outstanding and he is playing the football he plays on top and scoring goals. That’s rare. They have a lot of interesting players but Bamford, I’m really happy for him.”

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