PREMIER LEAGUE

Liverpool: Aston Villa are contenders for Europe, warns Klopp

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp praised tomorrow's rivals Aston Villa who he feels are serious contenders to qualify for European football next season.

Liverpool: Aston Villa are contenders for Europe, warns Klopp
GABRIEL BOUYS AFP

Aston Villa have done well to sign players they need to compete in the Premier League and their form this season shows they are serious contenders to qualify for European football next season, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said on Friday.

Villa are ninth in the standings with a game in hand, seven points behind fifth-placed Chelsea -- who occupy the Europa League spot - and five points behind seventh-placed Liverpool.

"Of course, they're serious rivals for European football. They are really good, they made some good signings," Klopp told reporters ahead of Saturday's home game against Villa. "(Ollie) Watkins, (Ross) Barkley helped them, (Matty) Cash... They are a really good side and good sides are immediately in contention for European spots."

Liverpool thrashed 7-2 at Villa Park

Villa were the first team to beat champions Liverpool earlier this season in the reverse fixture at Villa Park where Watkins grabbed a hat-trick in a 7-2 hammering, a game Klopp conceded highlighted a number problems in his squad. "It felt like everyone scored a hat-trick that night, it gave him a proper confidence boost," Klopp added. "He's a really talented striker. It was a really good signing. He's strong, he can jump high, he's very fast, he's a good package."

After going 68 league games unbeaten at Anfield, Liverpool go into Saturday's match having lost their last six at home, a record Klopp intends to set right. "The results were not great at home. We have to change that," the German said. "I don't think the last home games will have too much influence, I don't think about it. It will be a difficult game as the opponent is strong."

No injuries in Madrid

Klopp added that nobody from Tuesday's 3-1 defeat at Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final first leg was injured but he was waiting for an assessment from his medical staff later on Friday.