‘Worst Liverpool performance under Klopp’

Atalanta's Isak Hien celebrates at the final whistle after his team beat Liverpool at Anfield in the Europa League

Liverpool’s hopes of giving Jurgen Klopp a dream send-off in the Europa League final in Dublin next month are hanging by a thread.

The Reds boss has announced he is leaving the club at the end of the season and his players were keen to extend the season to 22 May when the final of Europe’s second-tier competition takes place.

A shock 3-0 home defeat by Atalanta in the quarter-final first leg means that looks an unlikely scenario as it stands.

Klopp, who has steered Liverpool to three Champions League finals – winning it in 2019 – looked bewildered at the final whistle and applauded fans as he disappeared down the tunnel.

But was this his final European game at Anfield after Liverpool suffered their first home defeat since losing 5-2 to Real Madrid in the Champions League in February 2023, ending their 33-game unbeaten run?

‘Players looked really alone in a lot of moments’

Liverpool’s performance was littered with bad mistakes and poor marking as they suffered their joint-heaviest defeat at home in major European competition, both previously coming against Real Madrid.

Atalanta, who sit sixth in the Serie A table and are 32 points behind leaders Inter Milan, took full advantage with a ruthless display – and will be strong favourites to progress to the semi-finals when the sides meet for next Thursday’s second leg in Italy.

“They were arguably the worst I have ever seen them [under Klopp],” said former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Liverpool were poor. Wasteful in possession, so many mistakes all over the pitch.”

Klopp offered no excuses for what he hopes is a blip rather than anything more worrying, with Liverpool second in the Premier League table, level on 71 points with leaders Arsenal, but behind on goal difference.

“That was a bad performance and that’s how it is,” the German told TNT Sports.

“A lot of performances tonight were really ‘oops, wow, I didn’t know they could play like that’. A lot of the players looked really alone in a lot of moments. It was really bad.”

Liverpool's Luis Diaz reacts after his side's defeat to Atlanta in the Europa League

‘Wheels have come off’ for tired Reds

Liverpool have little time to recover from this setback.

The games are coming thick and fast with Crystal Palace, who are 14th in the Premier League table, at Anfield on Sunday (14:00 BST).

Then the Reds are off to Italy to try to salvage their Europa League ambitions, before three successive away Premier League games inside a week against Fulham, Everton and West Ham.

“So many mistakes all over the pitch but Liverpool looked tired,” added Warnock.

“They looked like a team that has played 56 games in a season and you could just see tired minds and tired bodies.”

Former Reds winger Steve McManaman said the “wheels had come off” against Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta, whose goals came from Gianluca Scamacca’s double and Mario Pasalic’s late close-range finish.

On Sunday, the Reds dropped two points after being held to a 2-2 draw at Manchester United following a catalogue of missed chances.

Against Atalanta, Liverpool’s defending came under fire as the visitors made it look easy at Anfield.

“Liverpool have been amazing this year but tonight, wow, the wheels have come off and all the substitutions haven’t made an impact like they have this year,” added McManaman.

Can Liverpool turn tie around?

Liverpool, of course, have history of turning around first-leg deficits in European competition and Klopp and his players will still believe they can rescue the situation.

“Can we win it back? Yes,” said Klopp. “If we play good it is possible. Can we win 3-0? I have no idea.

Reds captain Virgil van Dijk said it was important not to over-react.

“If you don’t believe, there’s no point going to Italy,” added the Netherlands defender.

“We have made it very hard for ourselves going there 3-0 down. But the way to bounce back is by winning the game on the weekend.

“We need everyone to switch it back on. Then we can focus on putting out at least four goals over there.”

Former Liverpool forward Peter Crouch admitted the Reds faced a difficult task in Bergamo.

He said: “If anyone can turn it around it’s them, but the third is really difficult for them.”

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