Melwood is abuzz with excitement and intensity ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside derby, Jürgen Klopp has stated.
Liverpool’s Premier League season resumes against Everton this weekend following an enforced three-and-a-half month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Victory would represent another significant step towards the title for the Reds, and Klopp believes his team are “ready to go” ahead of a period in which they are scheduled to play nine matches in five weeks.
Ahead of the trip to Goodison Park, Liverpoolfc.com caught up with the boss to discuss the squad’s fitness, the atmosphere at Melwood, his expectations of Carlo Ancelotti’s side, squad rotation and more…
Jürgen, can you sense the feeling of excitement among the players ahead of Sunday’s restart?
Yes, you can feel it. I feel the intensity everywhere, pretty much. From the first whistle yesterday [Wednesday] it started, so it was really good to see that we are back, that the players can go again, that some of the issues are still there. There was a lot of excitement yesterday around the games; it was pretty much all involved, I would say, with strange decisions, bad injuries, everything was involved. We are ready to go, but we have to be ready to face problems because there will be problems. It is like it always was, it’s not new. In a football game, you have a plan for it and in the game you have to force it through, or you have to adapt to another one or whatever. It will be exciting.
Everton took one point from their last three matches before the break - can you take that form into consideration in your preparations?
No. Look, when you analyse Everton now you have to look as well to Napoli or any other team because Carlo Ancelotti has a specific way he wants his team to play and he is long enough there now to push that through. So, it will be a football-playing side, they will play as much football as we let them. We have to find challenges, win challenges, use gaps, find gaps and all that stuff. We have to play through, we have to be 100 per cent disciplined, we have to be full of joy, we have to stay greedy before the game, in the game [and] after the game. That’s all what we need.
The pictures we will show the boys will be from Everton before the break obviously, but we don’t know exactly - it’s for them like for us, we don’t change now in four weeks what was good before. We just want to play on the highest level and I think we started training all together at a similar time to Everton, so they had exactly the same time, like us, to prepare. We had to do a lot of physical stuff to make the boys ready, we had to do tactical stuff, but it’s not that we are all now finished in our preparation because nine weeks, or 10 or 11 weeks, is really longer than we ever had in a summer, so you lose some things. Not a lot, but you lose them and you have to remember and we do that on the pitch. So there are some things to do until Sunday, in the next three sessions, but how I said, I’m excited and we will try to give our best.
Goodison Park will be very different to how it is usually due to factors such as there not being any fans present. How will the different environment affect the occasion?
We will see. If you measure it and compare it with the perfect situation, how it would be usually, then you think, ‘Oh, that’s different and that’s different’, but we know that already. We’ve done pre-activation with the players now for three weeks and pretty much everything happens in a tent, if you are not on the pitch. So far we were not allowed to use the dressing rooms, so using the dressing rooms could be allowed from Saturday but in a different way, but yes, we can change inside, we can change at home. So Sunday then, yes things will be different but we try to make it as complicated as possible for us in our preparation [so] we arrive there and are not surprised. We are happy that we are allowed to change and allowed to play, and all the rest we take like it is.
You’re now permitted to make five substitutes per game until the end of the season. Does that potentially give some of the younger players more chance of featuring than there might have been earlier in the campaign?
To be in the squad, for sure. To be on the pitch, we will see. It depends on the performance level they show. Our young lads usually looked brilliant in these four weeks now, really good. But it’s nothing to do with a bigger squad or more opportunities to change. I heard in the beginning that clubs who are rather at the bottom of the table say there’ll be an advantage for the bigger teams. When you look at City last night and saw who they could change, you think ‘Wow, they can change five times and still Leroy Sane is on the bench.’ That’s of course not bad. But in the end it’s not about that, it’s really about that we can save the players as much as possible, that we can give them the rest in a time where there is no rest.
We had our time off but now it’s really all in. You saw it last night, the injuries had nothing to do with the intensity or something else, what happened for the Arsenal two and the other one for Man City. But these situations will come and the intensity will increase. The first game is the game where we all try to get used to everything in a second and then use it. From that moment on - for us it’s slightly different because we play Sunday, Wednesday and then have another eight-day break, which is like it is - but after that it will be unbelievably intense for us. So we need the five opportunities to change. And hopefully we have for the rest of the season always at least five opportunities to make changes.
Do you think the team benefited from playing at Anfield with no fans present in recent weeks?
I think so, that’s why we did it, but I don’t know, we will see. Anfield is a wonderful place and we enjoyed it really a lot to be there for our two games and a proper, proper session which we had there. We had to get used to the circumstances, we had to see our home ground [and] how it will be when we play there. We had to see the dressing room, how that will be, because everything is different. The press room is now [for] pre-activation, our little canteen is now a dressing room and all that stuff, so pretty much everything has changed and you need to see that. We should not come before a game there like a tourist going, ‘Oh, interesting, good solution or bad solution’. So that’s why [we did it]. Yes, we will benefit from it.
The pitch is in incredible shape - wow! It was raining hard when we trained there last week and after 10 minutes the pitch was completely flooded [but only] for 40 minutes, thank God. Then 10 minutes after the rain stopped the pitch was like it had never rained before, unbelievable. That’s good. It’s all good, we have nothing to complain [about] really. We just wanted to go since the first day of the lockdown but we accepted and respected 100 per cent that it is not possible. Now it is possible and now we have to behave like normal. Now we have to play normal football, without the crowd obviously. That’s a massive difference but it doesn’t mean there are any excuses for us. We want to be as successful as possible and that means we try to win at Everton. That would have been difficult before lockdown [and] would have been difficult after lockdown, it’s just difficult but we still want to give it a try.