Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists his side have to prove they deserve Champions League football next season.

Thursday’s win over Manchester United, coupled with Chelsea’s defeat to Arsenal, has put a place in the top four in their own hands – an unlikely prospect a fortnight ago.

Klopp said the example of Juventus, Serie A’s Champions League regulars who look like they may miss out, showed no-one should think they are entitled to a place in Europe’s elite club competition based on their reputation.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp gives a thumbs up
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp wants his players to prove they deserve Champions League football (Phil Noble/PA)

“I don’t think they give us a wildcard because of that,” said the Reds boss, whose side won a sixth European Cup in 2019.

“Some other good teams are not in yet as well – imagine a Champions League without Juventus. You have to deserve it and then you are part of it.”

Liverpool will go into Sunday’s trip to relegated West Brom with inexperienced duo Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams at the heart of defence for a third successive match.

Klopp is delighted the one positive to come out of his side’s injury crisis has been the formation of two “proper careers” for the back-up defenders.

Injury to Ozan Kabak, loaned from Schalke in January as cover for the injured trio of Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, has seen the two academy graduates pair up in central defence for the last two victories over Southampton and the Red Devils.

Last season Williams, who turned 20 in February, was on loan at Kidderminster but he made his first-team debut in the Champions League group stage – a competition Phillips was not initially eligible for having been left off the squad list as he was expected to join another club.

Klopp believes both have shown they can cut it at high level.

“The boys did incredibly well: Nat for weeks already, Rhys mainly at the start in the Champions League as Nat was on the list,” Klopp said.

“Now they played together and I loved what they did (at United). This year created two proper careers, which is nice.

“When you are at an academy that is not written in stone but they could show how good they are.”

Klopp said the pair may still be needed when the squad comes together for pre-season in July as it is not guaranteed the trio of injured centre-backs will all return in time.

Klopp believes Rhys Williams, centre, and Nat Phillips, right, have guaranteed careers for themselves
Klopp believes Rhys Williams, centre, and Nat Phillips, right, have guaranteed careers for themselves (Michael Regan/PA)

“I said before it is not sure the three guys will start pre-season with us,” added Klopp.

“We need the numbers of centre-halves. Team selection is based on performance, in training, in pre-season, in friendlies or proper competition games.

“The door is always open, I don’t get blind overnight so I don’t see a proper performance any more.

“It is just nice how they do. The concentration level they showed (at Old Trafford) was immense, absolutely insane against this front four of United, it is not easy.”