Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says Aston Villa’s quality signings show they are serious contenders to qualify for European football next season.
Villa are ninth in the league 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, live on Sky Sports.
“[Ollie] Watkins, [Ross] Barkley helped them, [Matty] Cash… They are a really good side and good sides are immediately in contention for European spots.”
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.
“[Watkins] is 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, but Klopp intends to set that record right.
“The results were not great at home. We have to change that,” he 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.”