Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits he is struggling to process having nothing to play for on the final day of the season.
A year on from missing out on an unprecedented quadruple his side head to already-relegated Southampton knowing they will finish fifth irrespective of results on Sunday.
That has already started to come into his thoughts for his team selection, after confirming it “makes sense” to make changes, but he is confident his side will finish on a high.
“I am not used to games on the last matchday when everything is sorted. I am used to games when everything is at stake but we play this game to win the game,” he said.
“This is completely new to me. We are fifth, they are relegated. Usually (at the end of the season) we have to win, it is a final, but I want to do the right thing and didn’t decide yet.
“I want to line up the right team but to the outside world, I want to line up a team that is ready for the game, for the 110, 112km they have to run, all the challenges.
“We will not take risks with players, that makes no sense.”
Mohamed Salah was the first player to express his devastation at not qualifying for the Champions League when Manchester United’s win over Chelsea on Thursday consigned Liverpool to the Europa League.
Klopp admits in the immediate aftermath of that realisation it is difficult to put a positive spin on things.
The club face losing around £50million in Champions League revenue – a “big problem” according to Klopp – but he is confident missing out will provide added motivation.
“It has to. We all think like that. This is not the season we want. We know that for a while,” he added.
“I really think this was not a season we will talk about. Yes we failed to give the people more to enjoy but we had our moments.
“It would have been a ‘normal’ season if we ended up fourth, not great but still qualification for the Champions League, but that is the big disappointment.
“I am here for seven and a half years – it is a really long time – and that things always go in the right direction is not likely, there are dips. Usually after three years you change manager.
I’m totally devastated. There’s absolutely no excuse for this. We had everything we needed to make it to next year’s Champions League and we failed. We are Liverpool and qualifying to the competition is the bare minimum. I am sorry but it’s too soon for an uplifting or optimistic… pic.twitter.com/qZmA9WsueM
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) May 25, 2023
“It is a really good thing I am here for that long but a challenge as well as you have to invent yourself new, that is what we started now, and that is super-exciting.
“In a difficult year I felt the unity between us and the supporters, it is so important people really appreciated it.
“This season was not great and from a financial point of view that is actually the only problem but a big problem in football.
“But we have European nights next year but instead of Tuesday or Wednesday it’s a Thursday. Who cares?”