Klopp defends Firmino after Jota's hat-trick in Liverpool's 5-0 win at Atalanta
Champions League

Klopp defends Firmino after Jota’s hat-trick in Liverpool’s 5-0 win at Atalanta

Jurgen Klopp launched an impassioned defence of Roberto Firmino after Diogo Jota scored a hat-trick in his stead during Liverpool’s 5-0 Champions League rout of Atalanta.

Firmino has scored just once in 11 appearances so far this season, and was dropped to the bench for Tuesday’s Champions League visit to Bergamo.

His prospects of a swift return to the starting XI were done little help by an impressive treble from his replacement in the front three, new signing Jota.

Jota has now scored nine goals since the start of last season in European competition – six for Wolves and three for Liverpool, more than any other player for English sides over this period.

He also scored Liverpool’s 10th European Cup/Champions League hat-trick, the ninth different player to do so for the club, with only Graeme Souness doing so on more than one occasion.

However, while Klopp admitted that form played a part in the composition of his team, the Reds manager rejected some of the harsher assessments of Firmino’s performances.

“Good performances never give me a headache. For tonight, that was the decision,” Klopp said.

“It was clear that it made sense for tonight to use the good shape Diogo is in and because of the way of Atalanta plays and defends it made sense that the skillset of Diogo makes sense.

“But, it says nothing. The world is sometimes a really bad place that in the moment somebody’s shining then we speak immediately about another player who played for us – it feels like – 500 games in a row.

“We would not be in the Champions League even if Bobby Firmino was not with us and immediately I have to explain why he is not in the team. He will be in the team.

“A lot of people in the world, if you would ask them what makes Liverpool special some days, they would say the way Firmino is playing. He is, on a good day, not to defend.

“For us it’s important that we have more than 11 and tonight Diogo used his shape in an incredible way and played a super, super game but that says nothing about Bobby and it’s nothing to do with headaches.

“I’m more than happy that the boys played like they played tonight.”

With Fabinho having joined Virgil van Dijk on the sidelines and Joel Matip only just back from injury, Klopp handed a full Champions League debut to Rhys Williams in the heart of defence.

The teenager was barely troubled on what represented a big night in his career, and Klopp put that down to a collective effort that has stepped up since the loss of Van Dijk.

Klopp added: “Rhys: exceptional. I cannot imagine being 19 years old and playing my second professional football game in the Champions League against Zapata and Muriel.

“I would have been nervous as hell, the boys are not, that helps massively. But, defending is obviously a common thing and how the team defended tonight, it was absolutely incredible.

“When you leave the last line alone, which we did from time to time – not on purpose but because of thinking things are always going well – in the end we win the challenges anyway.

“We had to change that obviously because Virg is not there anymore, which means if you share that responsibility now and put it on 10 shoulders instead of one then it can work out.

“Tonight it was incredibly good what the last line did, supported by all the others. Everybody has to step up now because Robbo, Trent and Joe are now in charge and whoever plays with them – if it’s Joel it’s different – they are the most experienced and they have to command things in that line.

“It was really nice to see and I couldn’t be more happy for Rhys. You should see him in the dressing room, you need something special to hit the smile out of his face, it’s probably not possible.”


Ajike is one of Nigeria's top Sportscasters with over 15 years of experience in writing and talking Sports.

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