Pep Lijnders press conference: Carabao Cup impact, Salah, Jota and more

Q&APep Lijnders press conference: Carabao Cup impact, Salah, Jota and more

By Joe Urquhart and Glenn Price


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Pepijn Lijnders explained how Liverpool's run in the Carabao Cup this season has raised levels in the squad as they now aim to reach the Wembley final.

The Reds travel to Craven Cottage on Wednesday night for an 8pm GMT kick-off in the second leg of their semi-final meeting with Fulham.

Liverpool hold a slender 2-1 advantage following the first-leg encounter at Anfield two weeks ago, with both teams aiming to reach the national stadium for the competition's showpiece next month.

On Tuesday, assistant manager Lijnders previewed the clash in a pre-match press conference at the AXA Training Centre – read on for a summary...

On Mohamed Salah returning to Liverpool from AFCON for treatment on his injury...

Let me first say [that] the one you should never doubt the commitment of [is] Mo Salah. I never met a guy, a player but also a human being, who is more committed to the life of being a professional football player. I know the country is devastated losing him. We were devastated to hear that he got injured. He plays the first game, scores, assists, captain, massive importance of course. But the only reason why our medical team and their medical team decided for him to come back is to give him the best possible chance to be available in the final, if Egypt reaches the final.

On Salah's injury...

I think because of the first message what came out, that it will be probably only a few days, one week. But then they made a detailed scan and it came out that it was a proper tear in his hamstring. So it means his expected return to play is between three to four weeks if everything goes smooth and everything goes right. Mo knowing it will go smooth and it will go right because [of] how he's treated his body before. But yeah, how I said before, what I'm really happy about [is] that the medical team of Egypt and the medical team of Liverpool Football Club really worked together and were really in close contact, and they both made this decision.

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It's an example of how international football with club football should cooperate – to put the player in the centre and not the targets of everyone, because it's a conflict of interest. How it works now is that all of us made the decision what's best for him, and for him the best decision is a stable environment, knowing the people, having people who are committed, have time to focus on his rehab process. We know how it can go from here in this facility.

On Diogo Jota's contribution to the team...

I never judge them only on that [goals] but yes it is really important – Darwin [Nunez] as well, by the way. That's the sign of a good squad, that's the sign of the character and passion and ambition of the players we have, all of them. Jota is a player who when he's in this angry mood, when he's in this mood where he wants to run against the world, where he wants to decide, he can do things which are incredible. We have to get him in that mood as often as possible, but we are really happy with him, Darwin, Lucho [Luis Diaz], Harvey [Elliott], Cody [Gakpo], how they all step up in different moments. It's never that you can just rely [on one]. It was the same with Bobby [Firmino], Mo and Sadio [Mane]. When Mo didn't play well, Bobby played well. If Sadio and Mo didn't, Bobby was the one. If Sadio was not creating, Mo would score the goals. What I'm trying to say is that when you are drilled, if you are trained, if they are all committed, if they are confident, these things happen.

On Nunez's involvement this season...

Chaos all around him, [it] could be a song! We are really happy with him, but I said that last time, and the time before. It's like young, hungry, energy, direction, each game he can create six chances just by himself. If he trains like how he trains, if he keeps to the braveness in his play, then goals will come because he's creating and the team is creating. He will become better, everybody says this is the [peak], no, he will become better. He will improve and he is already important for this team and that's really nice to see. I'm really happy. We are really happy.

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On how important Conor Bradley's loan to Bolton Wanderers last season was for his confidence…

The right moments and the right loan makes a big difference. It's what England is famous for, finding the right timings to play in the lower league, but it's really important that he goes to the right manager who does an unbelievable job [and] the right style of play. Two years ago, Owen Beck and Conor Bradley [were] in the second team [on] the right side and the left side, they dominated the complete channel offensively and defensively. So, we knew. It's not a surprise in how he is training now. It's not a surprise what he is doing. We always believed it. It's part of our project to bring these young players from already a long time. We had so many important games and so many decisive games where these players were involved. It's nice to see Conor now as well in this.

The loan, yeah of course, if you can make minutes, [play] senior [football], the right style and then come back immediately to have the pre-season; we always believed. He was not a player who went on loan to create a market, he went on loan to come back and to play. He was really unlucky with the injury because if you guys saw pre-season, that was impressive. I said the other day to Jürgen [Klopp], the young players, our players, the work the Academy is doing, the work Vitor Matos is doing with the young players, the belief we have as management to bring them, how they do it is just impressive.

Conor leaves his position to press, so he's already five metres in front of two players who stay up and go because he knows. Then, with the ball, it's just so easy to move to the half-space to the inside. You don't have to tell [him], it's just to try and these things, because they are trained for so many years and the boys have so much courage, they know we trust [them]. I'm really happy everybody in the outside world [sees it], but we see it already for six or seven years that all these young players make such an impact. That's a sign for a healthy club.

On whether success in the Carabao Cup can impact other competitions...

I said before that playing finals is one of the most important things for a team to develop. Winning them! Playing a semi-final in January is great in the season [and] being able to reach Wembley, one of the most iconic stadiums in the world, is unbelievable. All of these things have an impact on development. It creates a squad as well, I said it two years ago when we play all four competitions until the end, it creates for players a constant opportunity that maybe they are not playing now, but in two weeks they know they are going to play so they train in a different way, so that's really important. I like a lot if we play every three days, the more games we play the better because it means everybody will be involved. You are reaching finals and that means development [and] more difficult games means more development. It's important and it gives opportunity. We would not have seen all these players, these young ones, if you don't play in four competitions.



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