Andy Robertson has said Liverpool cannot afford a Lionel Messi-inflicted hangover if they want to preserve their Premier League title hopes at Newcastle.
Jürgen Klopp’s team were on the receiving end of a 3-0 defeat at Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday. Robertson admitted it was “baffling how that happened”, as Liverpool played well only for wasteful finishing and the brilliance of Messi to yield a first defeat in 20 games. However, the Scotland captain insisted focus must switch to Saturday evening’s awkward trip to St James’ Park, where victory is required to put the pressure back on City in the title race.
“We are near the end of the season but we’ve got three, hopefully four, games left,” he said. “We’ve no time to have a hangover now. We need to go strong into the Newcastle game first and get our bodies ready, and then go again because we can’t let our foot off the gas. We need the three points and push them [City] the whole way. There can’t be a hangover. Newcastle is our full concentration now.
“We have fallen short [against Barcelona] but we can be proud of the performance and we just need that bit of luck. We are still young and will still learn and be better for it in years to come. We can be proud of what we have done this season but we need one big, final push now.”
Robertson believes Liverpool were beginning to take control at the Camp Nou when Messi scored his 599th Barcelona goal, and rued Mohamed Salah’s shot against the post shortly after the Argentinian’s magnificent 600th.
The left-back said: “It’s a strange one because we played well but we got beat 3-0 and it’s baffling how that’s happened. We didn’t take our chances and they had a bit of luck with the second but that’s what happens. It’s going to be a tough task now but we have to think about Saturday first and foremost and then believe we can do something special on Tuesday.
“The second goal was one of the luckiest goals I’ve been involved in, coming off the bar and Messi taps it in. Just as we were getting into the game and the [home] fans were starting to boo and get on top of them, and we had them where we wanted them. Unfortunately, we got caught. Then of course if Mo scores – you can’t criticise him for it but those are the fine margins. At 3-1 it is a lot better scoreline with an away goal. We need something special on Tuesday but if there is any place to do it it’s Anfield.”
Robertson acquitted himself well against Messi but like Klopp, who described Messi as unstoppable afterwards, he could only salute the forward’s ultimate contribution to the tie.
“I thought personally I did relatively well against him down their right-hand side but he scores two goals,” Robertson said. “So for me that’s not good enough clearly. I thought the second goal he scored was world class. You could’ve had two keepers in and we wouldn’t have saved it but that’s what he can do. That’s Messi; he’s done it for many years now. Fair play to him, he’s a world-class player and he conducts himself as a world-class player.”