BARCELONA (Reuters) – Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp said he feared the worst when Philippe Coutinho left for Barcelona but congratulated his team for prospering in the absence of the Brazilian as he prepares for a meeting in the Champions League semifinals.
Barca hired Coutinho to a record 142 million pounds (185.18 million dollars) in January 2018.
However, while the point guard has struggled to adapt to his new environment, Liverpool has risen, leading the race to the Premier League title with Manchester City and struggling to reach a second final of the European Cup in a row.
Liverpool put the considerable gain they received from Coutinho's sale to sign with defender Virgil van Dijk, goalkeeper Alisson Becker and midfielders Naby Keita and Fabinho, creating a more complete team.
"We missed Phil Coutinho very much because he is a world-class player and I loved working with him, but we had to deal with him and we did well," Klopp told a news conference ahead of his first match on Wednesday. Camp Nou.
"When I first learned he wanted to go to Barcelona, I could not imagine it would be good, but we did well."
Klopp also highlighted the progress his team has made since joining Brendan Rodgers in October 2015 and had to endure two seasons without Champions League football.
He also laughed at a suggestion that he could see the semi-final as a distraction from the club's attempt to clinch the league's first title since 1990.
"Not even two years ago was a great thing for the club to qualify for the Champions League," he said. "For the second time in a row we are in the semifinals.
"We did not come here thinking it's Barcelona and we're going home and we're concentrating on Newcastle, the competition is very big, nobody has to think about this game, it would be a big mistake to play Barca with another game on their mind."
"We want a result tomorrow that gives us a good chance to do it at home."
Klopp said his team would dedicate part of their game plan to attacking Lionel Messi but also highlighted the quality that Barca have elsewhere in the field.
"It's not just about Messi, but of course it's about him as well. We must at times concentrate on Messi, but if we just focus on him, there are 10 world-class players who can decide the game," he added.
"Messi said before the season we want to bring back the cup, all I can say is we want to go to the final too, if we can show that tomorrow night, that would be good."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)