Belfast Telegraph

Jurgen Klopp: Liverpool fans would rather us win the Premier League

Liverpool v Bayern Munich, Champions League - Round of 16, First Leg, Anfield, Tonight, 8pm

Gearing up: Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho in training
Gearing up: Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho in training

By Phil Medlicott

Jurgen Klopp has no doubt Liverpool fans would prefer winning the Premier League to the Champions League ahead of their European tie with Bayern Munich.

The Reds, who were last crowned English top-flight champions in 1990, are second in the domestic league on goal difference behind Manchester City, who have played one game more.

A trip to fierce rivals Manchester United awaits on Sunday but the Merseyside outfit's immediate focus is on tonight's Champions League last-16 first leg against Bayern at Anfield.

Klopp knows what his club's supporters would choose if they had to decide between the two competitions, but the Reds boss is determined to target victory in both.

"It's difficult for me to answer the question, but if you would have to decide, for all Liverpool fans it is the Premier League, that is clear, we know that," Klopp said.

"But now we play in the Champions League and I think we all expect we will do our best.

"The only thing we can do is give it our all and play very passionate, lively football, the football people expect when they come to Anfield.

"We expect a good atmosphere but we know about the part we have to play. But it will be outstanding.

"I have experienced it now a couple of times, that our crowd is really able to push us from 100 to 120, 130, 140 per cent. It happened here from time to time, and hopefully tomorrow night."

Klopp, whose men were Champions League runners-up last season, became Liverpool boss in October 2015 after his summer departure from Borussia Dortmund.

The German was asked yesterday how much he loved the city of Liverpool and the club, and said: "Very much, and much more than I could have expected because you never know.

"The best thing of all the things we have done so far since we have been together is we are a real competitor again. That of course is not enough but it is for sure a very important step.

"For people to think we can beat Bayern is a big thing, but in the end we have to prove that. The story so far is a nice one, but not finished yet."

Tonight's game against Klopp's old rivals Bayern - the Bundesliga champions for the last six years, who are currently second behind Dortmund - kicks off a huge few weeks for Liverpool.

Sunday's trip to Old Trafford is followed by a midweek home game with Watford before an away derby against Everton on Sunday, March 3.

"Game by game - we cannot think about it in a different way," Klopp said.

"We have had only tough months this season. It's always tough, we have to be ready for that and hopefully we are. And we have to be focused 100 per cent on the game tomorrow night, otherwise we don't have a chance."

Liverpool go into the first leg with key man Virgil van Dijk suspended.

With Dejan Lovren (hamstring) a doubt and Joe Gomez (broken leg) out, midfielder Fabinho could join Joel Matip in central defence.

Klopp said: "Dejan, we have yet to see. (Winger Xherdan) Shaqiri (who has had an abdominal injury) trained yesterday and looked very good.

"Fabinho - if (he plays in defence)... in the Champions League, against Bayern Munich, it's not an easy job.

"But because we thought it makes sense that we don't leave our last row alone defending against Bayern, it depends all on how we defend in general, so that's it.

"There will be a lot of moments where we have to defend and we've worked on that. We tried to work on that because we respect the quality of Bayern Munich a lot - speed, technique, experience, it's all there what you need to be successful."

Lovren did not take part in the open section of the training session that followed the press conference, and forward Roberto Firmino was also not involved due to a virus.

Belfast Telegraph

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