Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has revealed Naby Keita's substitution in the first half of Tuesday night’s Champions League quarter-final first leg defeat to Real Madrid was for ‘tactical’ reasons, having hooked the Guinea international after just 42 minutes.
It was only a second start for Keita since before Christmas, having missed close to two months with an ankle injury and then returning in late February as only a bit-part player.
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Liverpool were second best in the first half in Madrid, but rather than wait until half-time to replace Keita, with the Reds having gone 2-0 down a few minutes earlier, Klopp opted for an instant change.
“It was tactical,” Klopp explained after the final whistle, via the Liverpool Echo. “This is one of the things you don't like to do in the job. It's like the one player is responsible for the performance of the first half. Naby was not responsible for that.
"He didn't play for a while, especially not from the start,” Klopp continued.
The Liverpool boss stressed that Keita wasn’t the only Liverpool player underperforming and that others could have been changed or replaced as well.
“We were not good in the game, Naby was not good in the game, but if we all saw the game and I am honest, I could have made a few more changes to be honest,” Klopp said.
“So it was not about Naby, but I did it and I am now not happy about it because we talk about it like it is all Naby's responsibility, it is not. But it was tactical, that is it.”
Liverpool face Aston Villa at home in the Premier League in their next game on Saturday, before Real visit Anfield for the return leg of the quarter-final four days later on 14 April. The Reds are in desperate need of goals, having scored only once on their own pitch this calendar year.