Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp explained the reasoning behind his choice to leave captain Jordan Henderson on the bench against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday and confirmed that the midfielder will start against Everton on Sunday.
Klopp watched his team tear through a helpless Spartak Moscow side at Anfield, with a hat-trick from Philippe Coutinho, a brace from Sadio Mané and extra goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah seeing the Reds qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League in style.
Some eyebrows were raised before kick-off when it emerged that Henderson was not in Klopp’s starting line-up for such a crucial fixture, but in his post-match press conference, the Liverpool boss explained why he left his captain out.
NEW: Mané: 'My first goal against Spartak Moscow is one of the best goals I’ve scored.'https://t.co/RDCyOcyeKD
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“I am sure somebody will make a story tomorrow about Jordan Henderson not starting, but I have to make hard decisions. He will start the next game 100%.”
Asked for his reaction after Liverpool fired seven past Spartak Moscow, Klopp said:
“We knew before the game that if we topped the group we would go through, so it is not a surprise – this year it is quite special, there are a lot of strong sides.
“This is one of the better experiences as manager of this club! There will be difficult moments for sure, but for tonight, it was nice!”
The result means that Liverpool will still be competing in the Champions League next year, with the last 16 tie to take place in February.
The Reds’ potential opponents for the next round are Bayern Munich, Juventus, Real Madrid, FC Basel, FC Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Asked about the teams Liverpool could be paired with in the next round, Klopp said:
“There are no easy opponents in the last 16 – nobody will be happy to face us so we wont be happy to face anyone, but we will be ready – that is for sure.
“I could not be less interested in the other teams who have qualified – they all have strong squads, but we will see where this will lead.
“We have learnt from our mistakes against Sevilla, we have learnt from our mistakes against Spurs – we will be ready.”
One thing that slightly overshadowed an otherwise successful night for Liverpool was a nasty looking injury to left-back Alberto Moreno.
Asked for an update on the severity of the injury, the Liverpool manager said:
“It was a strange situation – he is a tough guy, if he cannot continue we should consider it is something serious, but maybe we are lucky, we will see.
“If Alberto is out, of course we have Robbo, we have Milly, it is all good.”
Up next for Liverpool is the Merseyside derby at Anfield. Everton have just appointed Sam Allardyce as their new manager and have won their last two matches after a disappointing start to the season.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s big game, Klopp said:
“We need all the boys, we will be ready for Everton, if the crowd is ready to help us it will be nice again.”