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Klopp explains subbing of Keita in first half of Liverpool defeat to Real Madrid in Champions League

The Guinean lasted just 42 minutes in his second Champions League start of the season as the Reds were well beaten in Spain

Liverpool head coach Jurgen Klopp has confirmed Naby Keita was removed in the first half of Tuesday 3-1 defeat at Real Madrid for tactical reasons. 

Klopp raised eyebrows before kick-off of the Champions League quarter-final first leg, giving Keita just his ninth start of the season. 

With three minutes left in the first half and the Reds down 2-0, Klopp appeared to acknowledge he made a mistake by hauling the 26-year-old off and replacing him with Thiago Alcantara.

What was said?

“If you want to go to the semi-final, you have to earn the right to do so,” Klopp told BT Sport after the game. “We didn’t do that tonight, especially in the first half. The only good thing I can say, apart from the goal, is it’s only the first half of the tie.”

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Speaking in his post-match press conference on the Keita sub, Klopp added: “Yeah, it was tactical. These are the things I don’t like in the job. You do that and it’s like one player is responsible for the performance in the first half.

“Naby was not responsible for that. He didn’t play for a while, especially not from the start. Naby was not good in the game, but to be honest I could have made a few more changes in that moment.

“It was not about Naby, but I did it and now I’m not happy about it because we talk like it’s Naby’s responsibility. It was not. It was tactical.”

What’s next?

Liverpool did give themselves a glimmer of hope by scoring an away goal, which came courtesy of Mohamed Salah in the second half, but the Reds still face a major task at Anfield next week as they look to overturn a two-goal deficit and reach the semi-finals. 

Klopp’s side do, of course, have a good recent track record of Champions League comebacks against Spanish sides. The Reds lost 3-0 in the semi-final against Barcelona two years ago before producing a memorable 4-0 win in the second leg at Anfield to reach the final.

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