Liverpool tries to turn page after Europa League drubbing at Anfield

LONDON (AP) — Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool “lost the plot” in a 3-0 defeat to Atalanta.

The rout at Anfield in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday night has muffled treble talk — for the time being, anyway.

The Reds now need to turn the page to ensure they don't fall behind in the Premier League title race — currently their best chance for more silverware in Klopp's final season.

“We played a bad game, we deserved to lose and we must feel that now. But the boys have exactly this night to feel bad about it and then we have to build up again for the Crystal Palace game, so that’s how it is,” Klopp said in his postmatch news conference.

Liverpool hosts Palace on Sunday a couple of hours before first-place Arsenal faces Aston Villa in north London. Klopp and Mikel Arteta's team are tied on points but Arsenal leads on goal difference. Manchester City is one point back and can move atop the league Saturday when it hosts relegation-threatened Luton.

“We have to bounce back and the only way to do it is obviously winning that game on the weekend,” defender Virgil van Dijk told TNT after Thursday's loss.

The 56-year-old Klopp surprised everyone in late January when he announced he'd be leaving Liverpool at the end of this season after nearly nine years in charge.

A month later, Liverpool beat Chelsea in the English League Cup final and Merseyside was buzzing about a quadruple to send Klopp off in style.

But Liverpool blew an extra-time lead and lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinals.

And then Atalanta — sixth place in Serie A — came to town. The second leg is next Thursday in Bergamo.

“Well, I think obviously with the man-marking system they do, we have to do much better and when we have the ball we have to keep the ball better and for longer and be stronger,” Van Dijk said. “Obviously, they won those 50-50 challenges most of the time and then the spaces were open. They obviously punished us immediately with that and that’s what happens.”

In the group stage of the 2020-21 Champions League season, Liverpool beat Atalanta 5-0 away before losing at home 2-0 to the Italian team — with both games played without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And in 2019, Liverpool pulled off a comeback against Barcelona after losing the first leg 3-0 in the Champions League semifinals, winning 4-0 at Anfield in the second leg.

So another plot twist in store?

“Well, if you don’t have belief there is no point in going to Italy. We have made it very hard for ourselves, going there 3-0 down, but we focus on Crystal Palace," Van Dijk said. “Like I said, we need everyone to quickly switch it back on and then we will focus on putting out at least four goals over there.”


AP soccer:

Ken Maguire, The Associated Press