Jurgen Klopp has outlined Liverpool’s plans to deal with the threat of ‘exceptional’ Red Bull Salzburg forward Erling Braut Haaland ahead of their crucial Champions League meeting tonight.
The European champions travel to Austria to face Salzburg in a must-not-lose encounter, the Reds needing to secure a positive result to guarantee their qualification to next year’s knock-out stages.
Awaiting them on Tuesday night will be teenage forward Haaland, the 19-year-old emerging as one of the most exciting, young talents in world football following a prolific season for Jesse Marsch’s side.
Haaland has scored eight goals in the group stage so far and has become the first teenager in Champions League history to score in each of their first five fixtures in the competition, part of a staggering record that has seen the youngster score 28 goals in just 21 appearances this season.
🇳🇴 Erling Haaland this season:
🏟 21 Games
⚽️ 28 Goals
🎯 7 Assists
— SPORF (@Sporf) December 9, 2019
Klopp is well aware of the threat posed by the forward, and is hopeful his side can cut off the supply line to Haaland as they bid to secure their passage to the next round.
“He’s 19 years old, an exceptional player,” the Liverpool boss said at his pre-match press conference.
“But how you defend a very good striker, [you] try to make sure that he gets not that many balls. He’s good at dribbling as well and if he doesn’t take the balls in your own box, he dribbles past players and then scores there.
“He’s just a really big, big talent with a wonderful future, 100 per cent. But for tomorrow night, how you defend the best strikers, you try to avoid passes to them, cut them out of the game and then when they have the ball we have to make it as difficult as possible.”
Liverpool were given a scare in the meeting between the two sides at Anfield earlier this season, winning an entertaining encounter 4-3 and Klopp is expecting another tough contest.
The German is hopeful his side can do enough to secure their progress at the Red Bull Arena, but says he can have no complaints if the hosts advance at his side’s expense.
“I said it before, if Salzburg beats us, they deserve to go to the knockout stages. If it doesn’t happen then we deserve it – as simple as that. We have 95, 97 minutes to prove that point.”