LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 20, 2023: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo during a press conference at Anfield ahead of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg game between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Cody Gakpo eager to prove himself on “dream” stage for only the 2nd time

Liverpool’s January signing Cody Gakpo admits he still has to prove himself in the Champions League.

The 23-year-old may have played in a World Cup quarter-final against eventual champions Argentina but his experience in Europe’s elite club competition extends to just seven minutes in one substitute appearance in a group-stage draw against Tottenham in October 2018.

Gakpo had struggled with his form since arriving from PSV Eindhoven for an initial £37 million last month – not helped by Liverpool’s struggles on the pitch as a team – but the Netherlands international has now scored in back-to-back matches against Everton and Newcastle.

And his first Champions League start could be in the last-16, first-leg tie at home to Real Madrid.

“It’s going to be my second game in the Champions League so I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 18, 2023: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo (L) celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I have to prove that I can perform at such a level again and I’m eager to do that.

“It’s a dream for every football player to play in this competition and for me, to have that opportunity, it’s a great one.

“Of course it’s a great feeling to score the first goal knowing it was a really important game for us and it was a Merseyside derby – that was a good way to open the scoring account.

“And then to follow it up with the goal against Newcastle. I think that game was really important for us to show that we had a difficult period but that we are climbing back from that and that we are eager to perform and to keep doing better.

“I think we are really confident now and will keep working hard and trying to improve and keep winning games.”

Gakpo’s integration into the team was also not helped by being switched between two positions but he appears to be more comfortable through the middle.

“Obviously I played, I think, the last three years on the left side but at the World Cup and under Louis Van Gaal I played in the centre so I already tried to adapt to that when I came here,” he added.

“I spoke to the coach (Jurgen Klopp) and he said it’s possible to play on the left or in the centre.”