DOMINIC KING: A stroll against Atalanta takes the strain off Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool plant one foot firmly in the Champions League knockout stage amid unrelenting fixture list
- Jurgen Klopp looked surprised as his team romped to a 5-0 win on Tuesday
- Liverpool have often been challenged in the group stage, but not this year
- They have one step in the knockout stage already after good performances
Jurgen Klopp turned to his coaching staff with his mouth wide open. He paced back and forth and then shook his head.
Usually that would indicate Klopp was ready to erupt but this time it was different. Liverpool were five goals up in Italy, effectively had one foot in the knockout phase and the manager was prowling about in disbelief; what had threatened to be an uncomfortable night had become a stroll.
If Klopp was stunned by the manner in which Liverpool had taken Atalanta apart, to record a win in Italy for the first time since December 2012, he might also have been taken aback by the position in which Liverpool find themselves.
Liverpool have made a habit of struggling in the Champions League group stage, but no longer
Sadio Mane and Co effectively tied up a place in the Champion League knockout stage
Usually, the group stage is a test of nerve for Liverpool. Each season they have been in the competition under Klopp, they have found themselves subjected to drama and final day shootouts when everything has been on the line.
They won’t now. Not by a long way.
This is the first time, since Liverpool first played in the Champions League in 2001, that they have won their opening three matches — nine points from nine effectively adds up to a place in the last 16.
It would need a unforeseen calamity for Liverpool not to progress and the benefits of that for Klopp, in a season that will be unrelenting with games every few days, are huge.
With home games against Atalanta and Ajax to come, Klopp will surely be in a position to rest his big guns for the trip to Denmark in December and the final fixture against FC Midtyjlland.
Klopp is managing this squad physically more than anything else at the minute and getting qualification done and dusted so early will be immense.
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