Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum insists last season’s incredible semi-final comeback against Barcelona has been consigned to the past as Anfield prepares for the return of Champions League football this week.
It is almost five months since Jurgen Klopp’s side stunned the favourites and most of the rest of Europe with a 4-0 second-leg win against the odds which set them up to win the trophy four weeks later.
While that night on Merseyside still remains a regular cause for celebration for fans even more than the subsequent victory over Tottenham in Madrid, Wijnaldum said it was merely now a distant a memory for the players.
“What happened in the past is always in the past,” said the Holland international, who scored twice in that game as the Reds overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit from Barcelona.
“We created great memories for ourselves but it is not something we should think about.”
Wijnaldum was speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit of Red Bull Salzburg, which will be the Reds’ first European outing at Anfield since that astonishing night against Barca.
He added: “Of course it gives us confidence if you are in a situation like that but it is a totally different Champions League campaign: different games, different situations, different teams.”
“We just have to make sure we are ready and not think about last season.
“That is a great memory but we have to look forward to making it even greater and reach the final again. Not looking back but looking forward.”
After defeat to Napoli in their opening game, continuing a trend from last season when they lost four of their six away matches, a win against Salzburg this week is imperative for the holders.
“It would be nice. We all know how Champions League nights are so we will look forward to that,” said Wijnaldum.
Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk has dismissed the five-point lead they hold over title rivals Manchester City as irrelevant at this stage of the season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side briefly saw their advantage extended to eight points after beating Sheffield United in the early kick-off but City came through a slightly-less exacting test against Everton in the evening to reduce the gap.
But even though Liverpool have a 100 per cent record from their opening seven matches Van Dijk stressed no-one inside the dressing room was giving it a second thought.
The Reds know from recent experience that the situation can change quickly. They had a seven-point lead over City before the two met at the Etihad Stadium on January 3, only to lose as Pep Guardiola’s side began their fightback.
“It’s far too early. We’re almost in October and the busy period will come,” said the Netherlands captain after Liverpool registered their 16th successive Premier League victory.
“There are still so many games left and the only thing we focus on is the game ahead of us. We don’t want to look at the others because there’s no point doing that.
“Everyone realises that as well because last season we saw how it turned quickly. We just want to focus on the game ahead of us.”
Victory at Bramall Lane also extended the club record for successive away wins to eight and they have not lost outside of Anfield in the league since that defeat at the Etihad almost 10 months ago, their best run since 1989.
But attention quickly turns to Wednesday’s visit of Red Bull Salzburg as Klopp’s side look to register their first Champions League win of the season after defeat in their opening game against Napoli.
“It’s the media who love statistics. The reality is we have nothing at the moment. We want to continue to do well and there’s still plenty of room for improvement,” added Van Dijk.
“We have to be confident; you have to think you’re going to win every game otherwise you might as well stay at home. We have the quality, we have the players.
“We’ll take this, recover and then prepare for Salzburg and that will be a tough game as well. We have to win every game, that’s how it is.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hailed unsung hero Joel Matip as one of the best signings he has made.
In his four years at the club the German has broken the club’s transfer record twice with the signings of Mohamed Salah (£38million) and Virgil Van Dijk (£75million).
He has made five other £30m-plus signings but believes free transfer Matip was the best deal.
“In a world of big transfer fees, to sign a player like Joel Matip on a free transfer is incredible,” said Klopp.
“It was maybe one of the best pieces of business we did in the last few years.
“Joel was always an incredible talent. He played as an 18-year-old boy for Schalke in the Bundesliga.
“It’s a strong league and he played there, and was always a standout player, a fixed point in defence.
“Yes he lacked a little bit of consistency, that can happen especially with his physical stature.
“He doesn’t always look sensational when he moves. But he grew and developed. Joel is in a really good moment; long, long may it continue.”
Matip will start against Sheffield United on Saturday, keeping Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren out of the side again, having put together an impressive run of form.
He has partnered Van Dijk in central defence for every match since January 19 bar four games last season and just the Community Shield and European Super Cup final this campaign.
The 28-year-old had a clause in his contract triggered earlier this month which ties him to the club until 2021.
Klopp is also keen to keep the veteran in his squad James Milner, who turns 34 in January, for the foreseeable future.
The midfielder, who played a key role in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup win over MK Dons with a goal and an assist, is in the final eight months of his contract but his manager believes there is plenty of life left in the player yet.
“Milly is unbelievably important. He is Mr Professional, that’s how it is. He’s very serious in all the things he does, but very funny in the dressing room,” added the Reds boss.
“He’s a role model for the young boys. Not only the young boys actually. He’s had an exceptional career so far and he looks like he has a few more years in the locker.
Klopp was also happy with the current injury situation with goalkeeper Alisson Becker expected to make his long-awaited return to first-team training on Sunday.
The Brazil international has been sidelined with a calf injury since the opening match of the season on August 9.
“Alisson looks like he is close, but the final word is with the medical department,” said manager Jurgen Klopp.
“He’s not in contention for tomorrow. Maybe he can train with the team from Sunday on. Really close.
“Alisson’s injury was serious but in the last two weeks he progressed really really well.”
Sadio Mane has fully recovered from a dead leg sustained in last weekend’s win at Chelsea while fellow forward Divock Origi has returned after missing three matches with an ankle injury, although midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, who injured a calf in training on Monday, is not fit.
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