Liverpool star James Milner is confident the Reds will impress
Milner was an outstanding performer as Jurgen Klopp’s side demolished Slovenian champions Maribor 7-0 in their Champions League Group E meeting two weeks ago.
But Liverpool have blown hot and cold this season, with high points including a 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal in August, and lows such as the 4-1 humiliation at Tottenham last month.
Klopp’s men are sixth in the Premier League, but top a Champions League group that includes La Liga side Sevilla.
And Milner, who is set to play a key role as Maribor visit Anfield this evening for the return fixture, believes their thumping win in Slovenia was a sign of just what Liverpool can do.
“We haven’t hit our stride yet but we know when we do we can absolutely beat anyone out there, so it’s important to keep moving forward as a team,” he said.
Milner has dismissed the idea Liverpool’s inconsistency is down to the fact they are having to juggle Champions League demands with domestic commitments.
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We haven’t hit our stride yet but we know when we do we can absolutely beat anyone out there, so it’s important to keep moving forward as a team
Liverpool star James Milner
Klopp guided the team to fourth place in the Premier League last season when there was no European campaign to factor in, but it was significant their one major dip came in January when they had a glut of fixtures across three competitions.
Yet Milner feels Liverpool are now strong enough to cope with those demands.
“I wouldn’t necessarily tie it in together. We haven’t been as consistent as we would have liked,” he said.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that is down to the Champions League. We lost a few players to injury – Adam Lallana is a big miss – and Phil Coutinho has had the odd injury.
“It has been a bit disruptive with the international breaks so there are all these little factors.”
That 7-0 win in Maribor was a turning point for Milner, as he had rarely featured this season up until then.
The former England international was told in pre-season by Klopp that he would be returning to his favoured midfield role, having spent most of the previous campaign at left-back.
It seemed like good news for Milner, but then he started only two of Liverpool’s first 13 games, before he was selected to face Maribor and played a starring role.
“It was very frustrating,” Milner said. “Every player wants to play football and that is what I want to do.
“The manager picks the team and if it’s not happening then you have to try to force your way in there. When you do get the chance, you have to try and take it.
“I’ve played the last three games. Hopefully I’ve staked a claim for that shirt.
“At the start of the season the manager pulled me in and said he was looking at me more for the midfield now, which I was obviously delighted with.
“Then I didn’t play too much after that. It was down to me to force my way into the team. Now I want to keep improving and keep contributing to the side.”
Klopp claims he would be satisfied with a 1-0 victory tonight, and expects Maribor to be far tougher to break down than they were in the first game.
And he used a bit of German football history – and philosophy – to get that message across to his players.
West Germany memorably beat Hungary 3-2 to win the 1954 World Cup, having lost 8-3 to them in the group stages, and Klopp has warned Liverpool could suffer the same fate as the Mighty Magyars.
He also revealed the German version of the saying: ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.’
Klopp said: “In Germany we have a saying – you should not split the bear before you’ve shot him.
“I am from Germany so I know in 1954 we lost against Hungary in the group stage, then won the World Cup final. Nobody would have expected that. That is how I learned it pretty early in my life. It’s always possible.”