Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp called his side’s fixture schedule “a crime” as he prepared to face Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League less than three days after suffering a 2-0 Champions League loss to Atalanta.
Second-half goals from Josip Illicic and Robin Gosens helped secure an unexpected win for Serie A visitors Atalanta, who Liverpool thrashed 5-0 just three weeks earlier, as the Reds missed the chance to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage.
Wednesday’s result left Premier League champions Liverpool with one win from their last three games as they approach a run of four matches in 12 days.
Klopp predicted his players would not be alone in suffering dips in form as a result of the congestion, telling BT Sport: “I’m afraid to say I think it could happen not only to us but to other teams as well.
“You ask us to go on Saturday at 12:30, which is nearly a crime to be honest. That’s nothing to do with our game tonight.
“Now my only interest is I got thumbs up, nobody is injured. Now let’s recover immediately. The boys are disappointed and frustrated but we don’t have time for it, to be honest.
“It’s just get fresh legs as quick as possible and go again.”
Klopp selected a number of fringe players in his side to face Atalanta and saw them struggle to find any rhythm, with Mohamed Salah’s shot in the 44th minute Liverpool’s first of the game.
For the first time since Opta had shot data available in the Champions League since 2003-04, Liverpool failed to record a single shot on target in a home game in the competition.
Up against 19-year-old full-back Nico Williams, Atalanta’s Papu Gomez enjoyed a successful night on the wing, providing the cross for Ilicic to score the opener and then making a second assist in the build-up to Gosens’ goal.
Klopp – whose side lost a competitive home fixture by a margin of more than one goal for the first time in 137 matches at Anfield – admitted his players struggled with the intensity of the game, saying: “Both teams didn’t create a lot until they scored the goals. We saw it coming a little in the first half but couldn’t avoid it or defend it anyway.
“The ref brought a lot of tempo in the game, he didn’t whistle a lot. That makes it even more difficult on both sides. It was unbelievably intense for the boys; you need one or two breaks.
“We changed five times, that always costs rhythm, that’s normal. Usually when the first half is gone it settles a bit but you could see for some players who hadn’t played for a while it was very intense for them.
“So we didn’t really find a way in the game. We didn’t find ways to create.”