Jürgen Klopp on fixture schedule, Leicester, mentality and more

Press conferenceJürgen Klopp on fixture schedule, Leicester, mentality and more

Published 27th December 2021
By James Carroll and Sam Williams

Jürgen Klopp discussed a wide range of topics during Monday’s pre-match press conference.

The boss spoke with journalists from the AXA Training Centre ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Leicester City on Tuesday night.

Read our round-up of Klopp’s media briefing below…

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On the current fixture schedule in the Premier League…

I said before the situation should not be like this and we can discuss about that every year and all these kind of things. I know, so many people think it’s tradition [and] we wanted to play on Boxing Day, we could have played on Boxing Day, no problem at all [but] it was because of Leeds and the situation there, so we accept that. Then playing then 26th and 28th is just not right and I just say that because it’s true. I think you can find solutions for that, it’s not that difficult to play football in a slightly different way - 26th and 29th, where is the problem? Some teams are doing that. United play tonight and I am not sure when they have the next game, but probably not the 29th. There are enough days for playing football and it just would help the players, even without COVID, and the problem is now some teams definitely have a proper COVID problem in the moment. Then you rush a smaller group of players through two games. You need luck in these moments and I think we should not need luck in these moments, that’s the situation. We said it and very often. Boxing Day is never in doubt, we all want to play on Boxing Day, it’s a great fixture, everybody loves it, it’s great for the people, it’s great for the players, really good for everybody, but after that… We will not stop discussing it because if we don’t discuss it then it just stays like this. Maybe it stays like this anyway, but the players need help and the help needs to come from other areas. That means now the coaches are the closest to the players and we have to deal with all these kind of things and that’s why we are pretty clear about that.

Jürgen Klopp provides squad update ahead of Leicester trip
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NewsJürgen Klopp provides squad update ahead of Leicester tripThiago Alcantara, Fabinho, Curtis Jones and Virgil van Dijk are set to be available for Liverpool’s clash with Leicester City.

On Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita being available for the fixture with Chelsea on January 2…

The news obviously about that is good, I was really thankful for that. I think it’s right, but we needed help and we got the help there - all the clubs got the help so it’s good the boys can play this game and after that they have to go.

On the challenge Leicester will pose…

Leicester are not in a perfect situation because they have injuries and, I am not sure, but probably still COVID cases maybe. We played them only a few days ago and they were pretty strong in that game. Yesterday, we went out for training when it was 4-0 [to Manchester City] and then all of a sudden somebody told me it was 4-3. ‘Oh wow!’ They were obviously close, they are just a good team. What Brendan is doing there is exceptional so that’s why it will be tricky for us, of course, but we will try. 

Inside Training: Watch Reds prepare for Foxes clash

On whether this season is the toughest of his managerial career…

Is it the toughest? I don’t know. This time of year is always tough. Again, I can say, that’s not a problem, that’s what we are used to and what we know beforehand. We know in June and July when we have a pre-season we know we have to prepare for a long, long season – and part of the season is December and January, that’s how it is. Of course, for some teams it is even tougher than it is for other teams. So, if you are in international football then you have six games more, if you are longer in the cup competitions you have at least two games more so that makes already eight in a specific time and that’s really tough. Is it the toughest? I’m not sure, we cannot really be sure. We had now our first four [COVID] cases and now fifth, sixth and seventh from staff and one young player, but you never know. This morning you come in, we do the testing and then you stand in front of the building and just hope you are still fine. Our players had no symptoms at all, the two staff guys had absolutely no symptoms, which means it can pretty much hit everybody so that makes it really tricky, of course. In the moment when you get a positive test you are out – sit back in the car, drive home and isolate. That’s the situation which makes it especially tough, that’s true, but other periods have been tough for other reasons, so we just deal with it, try to get through it and we hope, we pray things will be fine in the moment and in the long-term for all of us. We don’t even know 100 per cent which kind of variant the players got yet because we don’t get this information quickly. I’m not sure how quick is possible, but it’s not that you get it directly: he is positive and you know immediately is it Delta or is it Omicron. Over the last one-and-a-half years we had other cases, but now it looks really like the symptoms when you are vaccinated and boosted you don’t have any kind of symptoms, which is good news as well in difficult times.

On the performances of Liverpool’s youngsters in last week’s Carabao Cup tie and how positive he is for the future…

Very happy about that. We are very thankful towards the Academy that they produce these kind of guys. I think the region we are living in and the area we are living in gives you a specific character, education as well, so they are not only great footballers they are really good boys as well - well educated and all these kind of things, so that’s really positive. How I said, and it’s definitely the case, if the line-up of the first half [against Leicester last week] would have worked out it would have been because of the players, that it didn’t really work out was my fault. So you have always to be really sensitive about how many you throw in in the same moment. It was for different reasons not really differently possible – we could have played a different line-up in the first half but then we would have had to change for the second half. So, we decided this way around, that we would be slightly more experienced and stronger in the second half. That was clear before the game. We were slightly lucky that we needed the 95th minute to score the equaliser, but that’s the situation you are in. We spoke about how tough the period is and in these periods you have to make decisions because of the things that happen during the week and that’s obviously, for the outside world, not so easy to understand, I can imagine that. They want to see always the same players, in their mind the best XI, playing constantly but these kind of things are not possible with these different tournaments which we are going through. And I really think the boys did exceptionally well. Especially what I loved about the night: first half, obviously 3-1 down and the atmosphere was obviously not now like great, like being 5-0 up. But it was good, the people were not angry or overly disappointed, they just thought, ‘OK, that’s how it is’. But when we stepped out again you could feel immediately ‘they want to go for it’, so the crowd did as well and they created a really special atmosphere. That’s what I love the most.

Highlights: Liverpool 3-3 Leicester (5-4, pens)

On whether he would be in favour of five substitutions being permitted again in Premier League games…

Yes. Look, I think pretty much a lot of teams… so, we have to put competition aside. [It is said] City has better subs than I don’t know, Southampton, and we have better subs than Burnley or whatever. Yes, that’s probably true, whatever that means exactly because it’s the Premier League and they still can cause us problems and all these kind of things. But if you talk about the quality without playing, the transfer market and all these kind of things, then that’s the case. The problem is, this intensity for a top-class footballer in England is definitely at the edge. A top-class player in England plays 38 Premier League games [and] two cup competitions so even when we don’t go to the final, let’s just put on another five - 43 [games]. They have international games with their national teams because pretty much all of them play for their national teams, so eight, nine, 10 games a year. Plus Champions League games, the further you go the more games there are, so you come pretty quickly in an area with more than 50 games. My first season here we played the [Europa League] final, it was the 64th game [of the season] if I am right. So yes, now we have squads and we can swap, but there are some key players, they only get out when they are injured – that’s how it is.

Now the decision about it is made, we realised again in the managers’ meeting that the decision is made by 14 clubs. I think you need 14 votes to change it and that is something wrong. As an example, Burnley, I am not sure how many players of them play international football. When our players have three games, they have no game. So they play 38 Premier League games, cup games, another two, three, four, that makes it 42. We talk about an issue which some clubs definitely have, some players definitely have, but it’s decided by other teams and because you make kind of a competition of it it’s like, ‘No, they are better than us’ and stuff like this. That’s a real problem, I have to say, that’s a real problem. It is the right decision, especially in this moment because you bring players back after a COVID infection or after an injury and because of the games we have to play, they have to play immediately and then they go out again because you cannot get them off after 60 minutes because you have to change others and all these kind of things. That’s a real problem. This wonderful game is so wonderful because usually the players on the pitch are in good shape, are well trained, have recovered well and go for it and that’s why we love the game. But now the situation is clear, if we don’t do that then it is just more difficult.

One example is, the best league in the world and the most intense league in the world is the only league in Europe and maybe the world, I don’t know, with still three subs. That’s not right, it’s not. We came through to here but I still think we have to talk about, we have to think about it and we should change it, but it’s the Premier League. Richard Masters said he would like to make this decision by himself but he can’t because you need the vote and other clubs which have other problems, different problems, say, ‘No, we don’t have to have five subs’ so I don’t see a real chance to change it, to be honest.

On the mentality his players showed to come from behind to beat Leicester last week…

All of us, we all do it for playing in an atmosphere that Anfield can create. It’s so special, it’s not that it makes you nervous, it just pushes you through and it gives you just an extra boost constantly. Actually it helps you fly, for forgetting that it’s really hard what you are doing, that it’s really intense, that your body might give you some signs that it’s done or whatever. It’s absolutely special.

Inside Leicester 2019: A stunning Boxing Day display

On the 4-0 victory at Leicester on Boxing Day in 2019…

This performance two years ago was after we came back from the Club World Cup in Qatar and we had absolutely no idea how we will deal with that intensity because we played there two games in the middle of a very intense period. Travels, different climate obviously, it was much warmer in Qatar than it was here! You come back and we really had no idea how the boys would react, and then this reaction was absolutely special. It was one of the best away performances we produced since I am here. Outstanding. But we should not now compare [to now] and the situation is clear. I expect Leicester will fight with all they have because that’s how they are, but we want to go there to get a result as well so we will fight as well. That’s it. How good the game will be in the end, we will see. But we are going there to win the game, which is difficult enough.

Published 27th December 2021