Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hasn’t won in FIVE trips to Spain – so what went wrong?
Madrid and the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium will always remind Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp of one of their greatest achievements together, but Spain has not always been a happy hunting ground for the Reds.
As the German prepares his side for a trip to Atletico Madrid tonight, he will be reminded that in his six years in the Anfield hot seat, he has never led his side to an away win against the Spanish opposition.
Despite winning the 2019 Champions League final in the Spanish capital, the Reds have lost four and drawn once at LaLiga clubs since Klopp took over in late 2015.
He has taken his team to Villarreal, Sevilla, Barcelona, Atlético and Real Madrid over the past six years, but each time has left disappointed – even as his Liverpool side has improved and developed as a team.
Jurgen Klopp argues with referee Szymon Marciniak after Liverpool’s defeat at Atletico in 2020
The Reds’ last two Champions League exits have ended up in the hands of Spanish teams
KLOPP’S TIME RECORD IN SPAIN
Villarreal 1-0 Liverpool (Semi-final Europa League 15/16)
Sevilla 3-3 Liverpool (Champions League group stage 17/18)
Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool (Champions League Semifinal 18/19)
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Liverpool (Champions League last-16 19/20)
Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool (Champions League Quarter Finals 20/21)
His first trip to Spain with Liverpool was a trip to Villarreal in the Europa League semi-finals during his first season in charge, with the Merseysiders conceding a winner in the 92nd minute to go down 1-0 in the first leg.
Liverpool recovered in the Anfield portion of the draw to advance to the final, but that loss to the Yellow Submarine was a sign of things to come in Spain.
The Reds then visited the country in November 2017, a group trip to Sevilla in Klopp’s first Champions League campaign with the Anfield club, but his side conceded three goals in the second half to take a 3-0 lead at half-time to let it slip into a frustrating draw.
The following season, the Reds advanced to the semi-finals of the Champions League, where they faced Barcelona, with Lionel Messi inspiring the Catalans to a 3-0 win in the first leg at Nou Camp.
Liverpool dramatically wiped out that three-goal deficit with a 4-0 thrashing from Messi’s side in a memorable encounter at Anfield, but the mountain they had to climb came from another bleak outing in Spain.
Klopp’s first trip to Spain with Liverpool saw his side lose 1-0 to Villarreal in the Europa League
Liverpool’s last two Champions League exits have even fallen into the hands of Spanish teams, with defeats in the first leg proving crucial in their recent European downfall.
Klopp’s men have lost first legs to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in the past two years, but could not rely on an Anfield recovery on either occasion.
Each of those defeats in Spain was unique in its own right, but if you look more closely, you can see common – and unwanted – traits in Liverpool’s showings.
As the Reds prepare for Wanda Metropolitano’s return tonight, Sports post takes a closer look at where things went wrong in Spain under Klopp.
The Reds also lost to Barcelona and tonight’s opponent Atletico Madrid in Spain
CAN’T HANDLE LONG BALLS
One of the key tactical tricks Spanish teams have used to thwart Klopp’s Liverpool over the years has been consistent balls over the top of the Reds’ backline.
The LaLiga sides that have welcomed Liverpool to their ground have tried to pull their high defense back as much as possible, with devastating results on more than one occasion.
On Klopp’s first visit to Spain as Liverpool manager, the Villarreal winner of Bruno Soriano produced a stunning chip over the top of the defense for Denis Suarez who squared Adrian Lopez for an easy tap-in.
Against Barcelona in 2019, Arturo Vidal’s long ball over right-back Joe Gomez found Phillippe Coutinho with ease, who then set up left-back Jordi Alba, whose ball past the goal line took Luis Suarez on 1-0.
Spanish teams have scored from balls over the top against Liverpool, such as Luis Suarez .’s goal
On their most recent trip to Spain against Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane’s side put the ball behind Liverpool’s defense line at every opportunity.
Both of Los Blancos’ goals in the first half came via Toni Kroos who put the ball over right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, with Vinicius Jr and Marco Asensio appearing on the scoresheet at the end of the two moves.
Liverpool’s high line has often been the Reds’ Achilles heel under Klopp and that hasn’t changed this season either. All three of Brentford’s goals against Liverpool came from the Bees who fired the ball behind Liverpool’s defence, showing that the German has yet to resolve the issue on his part.
Spanish teams have repeatedly tried to hurt the Reds by throwing the ball over the top – and Klopp must try to fix that problem tonight.
Long balls also saw Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr and Marco Asensio (left) score against the Reds
ATTENTION WITH SET PIECES
Another way Liverpool have shot themselves in the foot while playing in Spain is through their inability to properly defend set pieces.
In their disappointing 3-3 draw with Sevilla, where the Reds conceded three times after the break to lose a three-goal lead, two of Spain’s goals came from set pieces.
Wissam Ben Yedder’s first goal came from the striker who tapped home Ever Banega’s free kick before a Liverpool defender could come out to hit the ball, while Guido Pizarro’s equalizing goal came in the 94th minute when he came on a loose ball bounced when the Reds failed to make a corner.
Set pieces against Spanish teams were a problem – the Reds got two against Sevilla in 2017
Pizarro’s late leveler in Sevilla was very similar to the goal scored by Saul Niguez to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win in the last-16 first leg over the Reds in 2020. From Koke’s corner, Fabinho’s clearance bounced off the path of Saul heading home as the unmarked midfielder jumped on the ball.
Set pieces have been a minor concern for Liverpool so far this season, with the Reds drawing a draw against Chelsea and Brentford due to their inability to respond to clever opposition dead-ball situations.
Atletico Madrid will no doubt practice set pieces this week ahead of their reunion with Klopp’s Liverpool.
Saul Niguez’s winner for Atleti against Liverpool in 2020 also came out of a dealball situation
REDS GUILTY OF MISSING GREAT OPPORTUNITY
One factor that unites all of Liverpool’s winless games in Spain is that the forwards missed many opportunities in every game.
Five years ago against Villarreal, players like Alberto Moreno, Roberto Firmino and Joe Allen all missed major scoring opportunities, which would have given them a crucial away goal in their semi-final.
While Firmino made up for it by scoring twice in Liverpool’s return to Spain against Sevilla 18 months later, the Brazilian forward could have scored a third goal in the first half to elevate the game beyond doubt as Emre Can created a crucial opportunity in the second half. second half missed. .
Liverpool and Alberto Moreno (above) missed several opportunities in their 2016 defeat at Villarreal
Mo Salah (right) guilty of missing a nanny in the closing minutes of a 3-0 defeat in Barcelona
During the trip to Barcelona in 2019, the Reds missed numerous opportunities to claim an away goal, which would have helped their goal, rather than leaving them 3-0 after the first leg.
Sadio Mane missed two golden opportunities in the first half, James Milner had to find the net twice in the second period, while Mo Salah hit the post from a few yards towards the end of the game.
Salah and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson gave their all on their latest trip to the Wanda Metropolitano when they should have at least hit the target, and while the Reds were well beaten by Real Madrid last April, Mane and Diogo Jota missed opportunities to score to make the draw more interesting than a 3-1 defeat in the first leg.
Missing Liverpool opportunities is always inevitable given the number of chances they create, but with 27 goals in their last eight games across all competitions, the Reds shouldn’t be so wasteful tonight.