Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted that the confusion and concern surrounding the coronavirus pandemic affected his preparations for the Champions League defeat against Atletico Madrid.
More than two weeks ago, Atletico arrived on Merseyside holding a slender one-goal advantage over the Premier League leaders.
The game went to extra time level at 1-1 on aggregate, but three goals for the visitors in the additional 30 minutes cancelled out Roberto Firmino’s 94th minute goal.
The result saw Atletico progress to the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite competition at the expense of the 2019 winners.
The match, however, proved to be the last major game in England, with all football suspended in the top four leagues just two days later due to the coronavirus.
On the day Atletico landed in England, all education facilities in Madrid were closed with immediate effect, as Spain rapidly tried to get to grips with the pandemic that has since led to the country being in a strict national lockdown that enters its third week today.
Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Klopp admitted that Covid-19 fears impacted on his mindset ahead of the crunch game. “It is two weeks ago, but it feels like it is ages ago that we played Atletico," he said.
“I remember that we all knew about the situation with coronavirus around the world but we were still ‘in our tunnel’, if you want, and until then it didn’t really arrive in our mind in England.
“We played the Bournemouth game on Saturday, we won it, and Sunday [Man] City lost, so the information for us was ‘two wins to go’.
“But then on Monday morning, I woke up and heard about the situation in Madrid, that they would close the schools and universities from Wednesday, so it was really strange to prepare for that game, to be honest.
“I usually don’t struggle with things around me. I can build barriers right and left when I prepare for a game, but in that moment it was really difficult.”
The Premier League season is currently on hold until April 30, with some clubs in recent days reportedly expressing their desire for the campaign to be declared null and void.
Such a scenario would mean Liverpool would not win their first top-flight title in 30 years, a feat they are just two games shy of completing.
Reflecting on the final two days of a turbulent week, Klopp said: “Wednesday we had the game, I loved the game, I loved what I saw from the boys, it was a really, really good performance other than the result – we didn’t score enough, we conceded too many, that’s all clear, but between these two main pieces of information it was a brilliant game!
“Thursday [we were] off and then Friday when we arrived it was already clear this is not a session. Yes, we trained, but it was more of a meeting.
“We had a lot of things to talk about, a lot of things to think about, things I never thought about in my life before.
“Nobody knew exactly – and nobody knows exactly – how it will go on, so the only way we could do it was to organise it as good as possible for the boys and make sure everything is sorted as much as we can sort it in our little spaces, in the little area where we are responsible.”