Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware ‘king of cups’ Unai Emery and his Villarreal side as they book a Champions League semi-final showdown after knocking out Benfica
- Liverpool defeated Benfica 6-4 on aggregate after a 3-3 draw at Anfield
- Jurgen Klopp’s side will face Villarreal in the Champions League semi-final
- The Liverpool boss paid tribute to the Spanish side and their coach Unai Emery
Jurgen Klopp has warned Liverpool will need to up their game when they tackle the ‘King of Cups’ after sealing their place in the Champions League semi-finals.
Liverpool reached the last four of this competition for the third time in five years after drawing 3-3 at Anfield with Benfica; a 3-1 win in Lisbon last week had given Klopp’s side a significant buffer and they led by the same score here at one stage.
But once they had gone 3-1 up, thanks to a double from Roberto Firmino and Ibrahima Konate’s header, Liverpool lost concentration and allowed Benfica to restore parity. The Portuguese side also had another goal disallowed for offside late on.
Jurgen Klopp is all too aware of the dangers Villarreal pose in the Champions League semi-final
The Spanish side stand between Liverpool and place in the Champions League final
Liverpool now face Villarreal – a repeat of the Europa League semi-final from 2016 – in the last four and Klopp’s admiration for Unai Emery is huge, as he said the challenge from the Spaniards will be ‘tough, tough, tough.’ He knows his team will have to improve to reach the final on May 28.
‘First and foremost, when we qualify for the semis and I’m not happy, please knock me out,’ said Klopp, who made seven changes to his team. ‘We did a lot of good things and then this last line never played together and it is about details, it is difficult to concentrate fully.
‘We did not have the 1000 percent mindpset, it is not important, if we had played the best game of the season tonight. Benfica deserved their three goals. We are through now and let’s give it a proper try.’
Klopp, who said Diogo Jota got ‘a knock in the first half’, was happy to report there were no other injuries and was phlegmatic about the three goals his team conceded, particularly as he effectively played with a new defence compromising Konate, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Kostas Tsimikas.
‘The one thing we knew is that it would be hard,’ said Klopp. ‘This last line never played together, you lose Virgil’s voice, the rest and rotation is never a problem, Benfica kept going and for us it was important we can make changes and still be successful.
‘I saw the Villarreal result. It was really impressive. They kicked out Juventus and Bayern so deserve it. It is really good, the manager is king of the cups, when we play them we will be ready but give me time to prepare properly.
‘We never take something like this for granted. I am really happy. I know people talk about goals conceded and all these things and the day I am not over the moon about getting to the semi-final, something is really wrong.’
Roberto Firmino scored twice as Liverpool knocked Benfica out of the Champions League
Defender Ibrahima Konate opened the scoring for Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday night
Echoing his manager’s sentiments of believing there is room for improvement, Jordan Henderson told BT Sport: ‘I think we’d want to do better overall, we started well, could have scored a couple more. We’re really disappointed at the goals we conceded.
‘At 3-1 it is never over, we’re through which is the most important thing. Villarreal are not to be taken lightly, they’re a good team in their own right, it will be a very difficult tie. Hopefully we can progress to the final.
‘We definitely don’t take it for granted, to get into the semis is massive, we want to do our very best and take it game by game. There’s a lot of football over the next couple of months.’