Thiago Alcantara admits Liverpool could not imagine in their “worst nightmares” how bad this season would pan out, but the midfielder is hopeful his side are in the process of turning things around after advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Liverpool have sent a number of unwanted records tumbling this season, including a run of six successive top-flight defeats at Anfield for the first time in their history.
The reigning Premier League champions have long been out of title contention and find themselves eighth with 10 games to play, seven points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.
However, Jurgen Klopp’s side put their domestic woes to one side on Wednesday by seeing off RB Leipzig 2-0 in Budapest to complete a 4-0 aggregate victory in their last-16 tie.
And Thiago, who joined from Bayern Munich in September for a reported £20million upfront fee, believes the victory can be a catalyst for the Reds to kickstart their Premier League campaign.
“It’s a boost to our morale,” he told LFCTV. “We deserve to celebrate and be happy with something and from now on have this feeling we have right now. With that we can win all the games we have left.
— Thiago Alcantara (@Thiago6) March 11, 2021
“It’s been a tough period for all of us because we didn’t in our worst nightmares expect we are now in this position in the Premier League.
“But we are trying to perform the best that we can and get better in every training session, and I think this performance is a positive for all of us.”
Thiago returned to the line-up against Leipzig and impressed during his 72 minutes on the field, with no Liverpool player managing more tackles (six) and only Trent Alexander-Arnold (41) playing more passes in the opposition half than the Spaniard’s 30.
The 29-year-old has struggled for consistency during his first six months on Merseyside, not helped by injury and illness lay-offs, and he accepts that performances have not been good enough so far.
“I don’t read a word about what people talk about me,” he told TNT Sports Brasil. “I know that I receive some criticism about my performances, but I’m not happy with my performance since I came here.
“It’s a new club, a strange situation [after contracting coronavirus], a bad injury, so get to into the rhythm it was hard, but it’s not an excuse.”
12/13 – In all European competitions under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool have now progressed from 12 of their 13 two-legged knockout ties (including qualifiers), only failing in last season’s last 16 against Atlético de Madrid. Smiles. pic.twitter.com/CfFFlMaS2O
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 10, 2021
Thiago started on the right of a midfield three alongside Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum against Leipzig in what was one of his finest performances in a Liverpool shirt.
The Spain international has been singled out for criticism this term, with club icon John Barnes suggesting he slows the game down too much, but Klopp has hit back at those comments.
“I assume when you all look at Liverpool from Germany, people say [our problems are] to do with Thiago or whatever – that’s rubbish,” he said.
“Thiago was good, they were all good. For the players who were new, they always needed time to get used to our game plan, but Thiago doesn’t have that.
“Still, he improves week on week. It’s not a short-term project, it’s a long-term project and it was good.”
Liverpool’s win over Leipzig means they are now unbeaten in their last 12 meetings with German opponents in all European competitions since a 4-2 loss to Bayer Leverkusen in April 2002.
It is the first time they have won both legs of a Champions League knockout tie while also keeping a clean sheet in each leg since their last-16 triumph against Real Madrid in 2008-09.