Champions League: Klopp hails 'special' side in semifinals progression

Jurgen Klopp admitted he cannot wait to lead Liverpool against Barcelona after watching his side complete a 6-1 aggregate victory in its last-eight tie against FC Porto.

Liverpool now marches on to a clash with Lionel Messi's Barcelona in the semifinals.   -  Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp felt Liverpool's ever-increasing Champions League experience was vital in its 6-1 aggregate quarterfinal win over FC Porto, and dubbed his side "special" after it secured a semifinal place for the second consecutive season.

The Reds are the only side among 2017-18's semifinalists to return to the last four this season and they progressed in some style as Porto was brushed aside 4-1 in the second leg at Estadio do Dragao.

Sadio Mane's second goal in as many games opened the scoring and there were further strikes from Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool absorbed plenty of Porto pressure while being ruthless in attack.

The introduction of Jordan Henderson and Firmino in the second half seemed to knock the last bit of steam out of the host, and Klopp told BT Sport it was part of his game plan to have their fresh legs in reserve.

"In the second half it was clear that the energy level would drop a little bit for Porto so we could control the game much more and score the goals," said Klopp.

"It was clear the tempo would be lower because they couldn't cope with the tempo they had in the first 30 minutes. That was why we wanted to do it like this, so we could bring on Bobby [Firmino] and Hendo [Henderson] as well.

 

"We are more and more experienced, that's clear. We have had difficult away games at [Manchester] City last year, in Rome last year, and we knew this would be the same. They are a different animal in home games and it was clear we had to be ready for that.

"I think we are the only ones who were in the semifinals last year and in the semifinals again. That's really special for us."

Henderson was warming up on the touchline when Mane put Liverpool in front on the night, and he said the decision to award the goal despite an initial offside flag was correct in his view.

"I thought [Mane's goal] was a goal to be honest, thankfully it was given and that gave us a real boost coming in at half-time," said Henderson.

"It was tough but that's what we expected. We had to be ready from the start, we dug in really well, they had some half chances and it was difficult in the first half."

Liverpool is away at Cardiff City next as its Premier League title push continues, and Henderson said there is plenty of belief in the squad.

"We believe but we've got to keep working hard," he said. "We try to give everything and be horrible to play against."

'Proper football' showdown with Barcelona

Liverpool now marches on to a clash with Lionel Messi's Barcelona, the first meeting of the clubs since a last-16 encounter in 2006/07 that the Reds won on away goals.

“I'm looking forward to it. The news that there is a proper football game between Barcelona and Liverpool is great,” said Klopp as his side move a step closer to matching its run to the final a year ago.

On the night Manchester City's quadruple bid died, the dream of a Champions League and Premier League double remains alive for Liverpool and its supporters, whose spirits were not dampened by the dreary weather by the banks of the River Douro.

This was the club's 17th game without defeat and its eighth straight victory, although Barcelona will offer a far tougher test than Porto.

“Tonight we are in the semifinals and we play on Sunday against Cardiff. That will be 100 percent on my mind when I wake up tomorrow and not Barcelona,” insisted Klopp.

(With inputs from AFP.)

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