Sadio Mane is confident Liverpool will continue to cause problems for defenders in the latter stages of the Champions League — although first they have to get into the knockout stages.
Heading into the final round of group matches, Jurgen Klopp’s side are the second-highest scorers in the competition with their 16 from five games bettered only by Paris St Germain’s remarkable 25 goals.
They are only two short of their best group stage tally achieved in 2007/08 and that firepower should be enough to secure them the point they need at home to Spartak Moscow to make the last 16 for the first time since 2009.
Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah both have five European goals apiece with the other members of their key attacking quartet Mane and Philippe Coutinho contributing one and two, respectively.
Liverpool have put 10 past Maribor in two matches and scored three in Seville last time out and Mane hopes that kind of threat will keep opposition teams on their toes.
“I think we have scored more goals than many big teams,” he said.
“It is important to score goals and win the games. It doesn’t matter to us (who scores), we just want to win the games.
“We are working hard every single day to be difficult for the defenders. We going to try to do our best and cause as many problems as we can for the defenders.
“It is very important for us to be in the Champions League. It is the dream of each player in the world. The fans deserve it, the club also.
“Liverpool is a big and great club; we want to play a big part in the Champions League. We want to go as far as we can.”
Mane is set to return to the side having been an unused substitute in Saturday’s 5-1 win at Brighton after playing the starring role in the win at Stoke four days earlier.
With virtually a fully fit squad, the Senegal international accepts rotation is something every player will have to get used to, even if it is frustrating. “Honestly, I won’t lie: Every player would love to play every single game, every single weekend. That is our job and we are still young,” he said.
“But we have a good team and I am happy to respect the decision of the coach. The team is always more important.”
While a point will be enough at Anfield, victory would see Liverpool top Group E.
Klopp has no intention of playing for the draw as he knows how dangerous that could be with a Spartak victory putting them through and relegating his side to the Europa League.
“It is all or nothing. A proper final,” said the German.
“All or nothing usually means you can either win or you lose. We know we can draw but this information is only useful for after the game.
“We cannot play for that and we do not want to. If people (fans) are nervous or not I do not know.
“If I knew 100% how they will start the game I will say ‘yes, they must attack’ and it can cause us problems if we do not defend well.
“Everyone is saying we are brilliant at counter-attacks. We scored some nice goals, that is true, but we have to do our job.
“We are a possession team. We will have the ball and must have an idea for that.”
At yesterday’s pre-match press conference, a focused Klopp would not even let more questions about Philippe Coutinho’s future — “not one second have I thought about it” — or Sunday’s Merseyside derby deflect from the task at hand.
Klopp was asked what made him so sure Coutinho would still be at the club in February but he dismissed the question.
“Nothing — but I don’t think about it, I think about the Moscow game,” he said.
“Not one second have I thought about that so far. I am not unsure, I am not sure, I don’t think about it.
“No one knows what will happen in the ‘nice and calm’ January transfer window. It’s nice from an outside view but I have absolutely nothing to say.”
For his part, Spartak Moscow coach Massimo Carrera insists his side do not fear Liverpool at Anfield.
Only victory can secure passage to the knockout stage for the Russian club but their European record — combined with the Reds’ home form — makes it a tough ask.
Although Spartak have lost just once in 19 matches, they have won only six of their last 40 Champions League games and not registered a European away victory since beating Ajax 1-0 in the Europa League in March 2011.
“We are aware that we are up against a very strong opponent,” Carrera said.
“We will try to break Liverpool down and try to stick to our gameplan to cause them problems. We know how much experience Liverpool have in competitions like these.
“We’re going to face great players with a great atmosphere inside the squad. We will face a very strong team, but we respect the opponent and the fans of Liverpool.
“We respect them, but we don’t fear them.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved