Jurgen Klopp has conceded that Nicolo Barella’s absence is “not bad” for Liverpool ahead of their Champions League last-16 tie with Inter Milan.
Sent off in Inter’s final group stage game against Real Madrid for hitting out at Eder Militao after the Brazilian defender barged him into the advertising boards, Barella is currently serving a two-match suspension and, as such, will miss both legs of Liverpool’s tie against the Italian champions.
The 25-year-old has been one of the Nerazzurri’s most influential players over the last few seasons, earning a reputation as a smart distributor as well as an interception and turnover specialist in midfield. Having won the Scudetto with Inter last term, his performances were also crucial to Italy winning Euro 2020.
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Given his enthusiasm for counter-pressing, it’s no surprise that Klopp admires Barella. Asked whether his suspension would make life easier for his side ahead of the first leg at San Siro, the Liverpool boss grinned and said: “That Barella is not able to play is not bad for us!
“He is a really good player, a really good player. I like him a lot. He has all the things you want from a midfield player. He’s aggressive, he’s technically [good], he can run for ages and all these kinds of things.
“So he’s a top-class player. But – I’m not 100 per cent sure – probably the replacement will be Arturo Vidal. So that’s experience at its best. He’s played everywhere at the top level and I think, in these games, Arturo is especially motivated, so I’m not so sure it’s such an advantage for us that he will play instead of Barella.
“I like to say in these situations it’s not so important who is playing but how we play. That’s really what counts for us, but it counts for other teams as well. What kind of mood can you create in a game? What kind of mentality can you produce? What kind of football can you show? It depends on the players, obviously, but it depends even more on the team, so that will be really interesting.”
Klopp also reserved high praise for Inter as a team and their manager Simone Inzaghi. Despite their mixed form recently – they drew 1-1 against Napoli on Saturday and have two wins from their last five league matches – the Nerazzurri are currently one point off fierce rivals AC Milan at the summit of Serie A with a game in hand.
“Inter is an absolute top, top, top class team,” Klopp said.
“Top-class players, top-class manager, champions last year and, with all respect to the other teams, I think probably the best team this year again in Italy. You can see that in the table at the moment.
“They are really rock solid, they have creativity on the pitch, they are very well organised and very well drilled in everything that they do. Their individual quality is big, so that’s the Champions League, no doubt about that.
“They are a top-class team and we need to show a top-class performance to even have a chance. But why shouldn’t we try?”
Meanwhile, with Liverpool still in the Premier League title race and both domestic cups, Trent Alexander-Arnold has said that he and his team-mates are confident in their ability to push on in all four competitions. “We’ve shown people that we are able to compete on multiple fronts,” he said.
“To have a place in all four competitions at this point of the season is good for us. We’ve got a chance obviously in a couple of weeks to add silverware to the season early doors [in the League Cup final], so that’s what our focus is on, to make sure that we’re still in all four competitions and to go as far as we can go.”
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