The Reds had advanced to the semi-finals of the Europa League following a dramatic quarter-final victory over Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund, but despite holding the Yellow Submarine for much of the contest, they were left stunned by a 92nd-minute winner by Adrian Lopez.
Ahead of the match, Klopp pulled a surprise by overlooking England international Sturridge from his starting lineup.
It was a particularly perplexing decision considering the stature of the match—indisputably the biggest of Liverpool’s season and Klopp’s tenure at the club—and also considering the 26-year-old’s fine recent form.
Since returning from injury, Sturridge has demonstrated his class for the Merseyside giants, and had scored four goals in his last five games—including an outstanding showing against Bournemouth—heading into Thursday’s bout.
Speaking ahead of the match, Klopp attempted to defend his choice: “Yeah, very difficult decision,” the German coach told BT Sports. “I thought about a lot of things, but in the end I decided for a little bit more stability.
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) April 28, 2016
“In the 4-3-3 we didn’t play with Daniel until now, and so we thought for today this 4-3-3, 4-5-1, sometimes a diamond this very flexible style, we played in a few games before.
“It makes sense that the players played it together before, that’s why we decided for this line-up.”
However, in the aftermath of the match, it’s hard to argue that the manager’s decision was the right one.
While Liverpool enjoyed 14 shots—five more than their hosts—they were unable to make the most of their chances.
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Adam Lallana was sub-par, while Roberto Firminio and Philippe Coutinho were unconvincing. Indeed, intriguingly, Klopp opted to send on big-money flop Christian Benteke in the latter stages, rather than turn to benched Sturridge.