Jurgen Klopp praised center-backs Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak after the duo led the way in Liverpool’s 2-0 Champions League win over RB Leipzig.
Phillips put a man of match-level performance in the win, which pushed Liverpool to the quarter-finals, while Kabak the transition to life at Anfield continued with a great outing on Wednesday in Budapest.
With Liverpool still struggling in the league, Wednesday’s effort will go a long way in restoring the Reds’ confidence, with Klopp giving credit to his center-backs.
What did Klopp say?
“The two middle halves played an incredible game,” said Klopp BT Sport. “The whole back row played an amazing game because it’s a tough task. We had to press them. We defended really well together, which is important.
“Everyone had a great game. It was a good performance.”
In his post-game press conference, Klopp had even more praise for Phillips.
“Oh, my God, what a player, what a night for him,” Klopp said. “It was absolutely awesome. The level of focus he shows week after week when he’s playing for us is absolutely amazing.
“He does the right things at the right times. He’s a pretty air and ground monster.”
Fabinho back in midfield
With Kabak and Phillips starting in defense, Fabinho was released to return to midfield, where he performed alongside Giorginio Wijnaldum and Thiago.
The Brazilian provided the necessary cover in midfield, allowing Wijnaldum and Thiago to roam and frustrate RB Leipzig.
If Klopp could continue to rely on other center-backs, Fabinho would be free to return to midfield more regularly, something the Brazilian certainly favors.
“I asked him afterwards, ‘Do you like position # 6 more than the other?’ And he said ‘Yes!’ Klopp said. “It couldn’t have been clearer!”
While Liverpool’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League remain in jeopardy, they will now look to build on Wednesday’s performance as they consider a potential fight.
The Reds are expected to visit Wolves on Monday in their last game before the international break, and Klopp is hoping to enter that game with a more confident side than one that has faltered domestically in recent weeks.
“We must [use it as momentum]”He said.” The last time we played in the Champions League it was a long journey. We play next Monday, it’s OK. We have to prepare. If we play like we did tonight, it won’t be easy for Wolves. It’s a huge difference. “
He added: “We had to turn off that Premier League stuff, to get here and give it a good try. The boys really had fun tonight, which is important. Defend the challenge.”