Jürgen Klopp knows Liverpool's first European night at Anfield of the season will not be the same – but insists his team's approach absolutely must be.
The Reds host FC Midtjylland in Champions League Group D this evening, aiming to build on their 1-0 win away at AFC Ajax last week.
As the world continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tie will be played behind closed doors, meaning the loss of the atmosphere that has so richly enhanced the club’s forays into continental competition.
Klopp and his players will feel that absence, but the boss has underlined the responsibility and duty Liverpool have to overcome it on behalf of the supporters.
“We all know the phrase ‘famous European nights’ as it relates to our special home,” he writes in his matchday programme notes.
“I have been so blessed, as have my players, to have written our own stories in this regard as a team. I think I am right in saying this will be the first time Anfield is empty for this sort of game.
“Of course, I cannot and will not in this column claim we can produce the same feeling when Anfield’s stands remain closed. But what I can say is we will try to channel the energy that comes from within, in terms of what it means to represent LFC, in this specific competition and at our home.
“As a team we carry that responsibility into this game. We can be here and we can play! We should not ignore this privilege while our city, this country, Europe and the world deals with this awful situation.
“As management and players we know our city feels pain in this moment. People better than me can explain the technicalities behind the government’s ‘tier system’ – but even without that in-depth knowledge we know that the lonely and vulnerable are isolated, lives put on hold, livelihoods impacted, wages reduced and businesses destroyed. We know in our city human beings are suffering through no fault of their own.
“Before we played Everton I was asked whether football can help lift people. I really don’t have a good answer to that. I think if my job was lost, if I were struggling to pay bills, feed my family or even if I was told I cannot see a vulnerable relative or spend time with people I love, I’m not sure any football match could help me feel better?
“Maybe – but we must respect that people have real problems right now.
“But what is true, in the sentiment that football can help, is that we all carry a greater responsibility when we do play. Many of our supporters may have been denied the chance to do their jobs. Others, such as those heroes in the hospitals and care sector, face added danger while performing their duties to protect us all.
“So Anfield being empty on a European night is strange and it’s not what we want. But as a team we have no excuse. We are privileged to have the opportunity to play and we must show our appreciation through our effort and enterprise in the game.
“Make it the best European night ever, with an empty stadium. Make it a match whereby our fans take energy and joy from us. That’s a motivation we will use. Times are different, UEFA Champions League nights at Anfield are different, but our responsibility to our fans remains the same.”