Boss on Southampton, Porto, Trent progress and more

Jürgen Klopp discussed Liverpool's task at Southampton this Sunday and explained why his team will not be distracted by the looming Champions League trip to FC Porto.

The Reds continue their Premier League campaign with a clash at St Mary’s this weekend, three days before the first leg of a last-16 European tie in Portugal.

Their focus is wholly on Saints, however, insisted the manager as he fielded questions from the media at his pre-match press conference.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Emre Can and his side’s defending were also under discussion. Read on for a summary…

On whether there is any update on a new contract for Can…

No. He didn’t come into my office and say [anything]. There is nothing new about that. I think still everything is possible, but there is nothing else to say about it. In the moment when we have to say something then we can say it, but there is no decision made so far, otherwise we would have said.

On Southampton’s form…

They had a sticky start. In 2018, the results are absolutely OK or more than OK. A draw with Tottenham at home and stuff like that, so it’s good. It’s a good team, to be honest, really a good team. I don’t get 100 per cent why they are in the region they are in the table, but it’s a difficult season for all of us and for Southampton as well. You win two games and you can be a little bit more relaxed for a week or so, or you lose two games and you are in the middle of the chaos again. That’s the important thing for us to know.

They will 100 per cent go for it, not only because of the ‘special relationship’ between Liverpool and Southampton. It will not be a friendly game; we fight for everything, they fight for everything. The quality of the squad is really, really good. They will want to show it. But we have our own targets. Again it’s a very, very interesting challenge. We know a lot about Southampton and the way they play, it’s a football-playing side. It’s quite rare. Bournemouth and Southampton are two teams in this area of the table still football playing, nice build-up, with good players on the pitch, good options, different options – Ward-Prowse, Davis, Hojbjerg – and different systems and all that stuff. That’s a job to do, for sure.

On putting next week’s Champions League tie with Porto out of their minds…

I have experience with European football and I never thought about the European game the few days [before], the main focus is always on the next game. In this case, that is Southampton. We cannot and will not think about the Champions League game. We have the squad we have, and we have to use it. But it’s not about rotating; it’s a completely normal week between the two games and that means full power or whatever it will be. We will not think about Porto, you cannot. There are only important games left in the Premier League, and that’s how it is in the Champions League. We didn’t think about Porto so far – we have enough time after the game.

On the team’s defending against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend…

Our problem in that game was not our defending. Our problem was that we didn’t play football in the second half anymore. The best kind of defending is to keep the ball and we didn’t do that good enough. The first goal was a fantastic strike, we have to accept that; you can shoot from nearly the other stand, it was a fantastic goal. We have to respect that. I don’t celebrate good defending. We could have defended even better, I know that, but it was good enough to give them not a lot of chances. They played better in the second half and they had more of the game, but firstly because we didn’t play as much football as we did in the first half. In the second half, I can remember a lot of chances for Tottenham, that’s true; they scored twice and got another penalty.

Our defending is most of the time really good. Shots on target from opponents, I think we are the second-fewest number, so it’s not that other teams shoot like crazy at our goal. Most of the time we defend well. In a few decisive moments, a few things lead to the goals we concede. That’s another truth. Against Southampton we need to be spot-on in both parts of the game because they play football. That means we need to defend in midfield, sometimes a little bit deeper, really concentrated, really together, not speculating, rather anticipating situations and winning balls in interesting situations. They take a little bit of a risk in their own offensive play. Using that, and of course when we have the ball, we have to play football. That’s 100 per cent true. They are the things we spoke about, not too much about the Tottenham game.

On Alexander-Arnold’s progress…

It’s good for him that he doesn’t have to play every week. He is still a young boy. He improved a lot, especially in training, in the last few months. In the beginning he trained a little bit like a kid, ups and downs. [Now] it’s a consistent high level, good attitude and he can show his skills. The football part of the position seems to be pretty easy for him; he is really quick, he has a fantastic right foot, the left foot is not too bad, really good crosses, football smart, a good view for spaces. That’s all good. But [he has] a lot to learn of course. We probably have the two youngest full-backs in the league pretty much, and now Joe is out. So it is really good that we have Trent. He developed a lot, like Joe did – different players obviously but both can play the position. That helps us a lot. Now he is in charge, that’s good for us and good for him. Hopefully he can deliver again.