Pep Lijnders: We'll try with everything we have to reach Wembley

Press conferencePep Lijnders: We'll try with everything we have to reach Wembley

Published 19th January 2022
By Glenn Price

Pepijn Lijnders previewed the second leg of Liverpool's Carabao Cup semi-final with Arsenal by attending a press conference on Wednesday morning.

The Reds' assistant manager answered a wide range of questions from reporters ahead of the squad's trip to London on Thursday night, with the tie finely poised following the 0-0 draw at Anfield last week.

Read on for a summary of Lijnders' pre-match comments… 

On the victory over Brentford at the weekend… 

I really liked our performance. We know how difficult it is to play against this team. The ball is a lot of the time in the air, so you need this switch of mood constantly between fighting for first and second balls and then putting it on the floor and really playing. We did this really well, so that's why we got more control over the game and in the end we could have the result with 68 per cent possession, 27 shots, 13 on target, one of our better performances.

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We always analyse and always look ahead to the next game and we know what we want. We go to Arsenal because it's clear now that we need to win, so that's good I think. If it's in 90 minutes, if it's in 120 minutes or if it's with penalties, we need to win this game. When we start the season, we always speak about that we want to create memories, that we want to create memories with our fans, that we want to create special games. It's good that we are in January and we speak about reaching finals, it's good that we are in January and we speak about reaching Wembley. We are going to try with everything we have to reach Wembley, to compete there. It's clear we need to go there and win but hopefully we can create a special game. 

On how important the Brentford win was to the squad because it was without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane...

We did it before. We had one of the most memorable games we played, I think, was without a few of them. It's not about that. When we have our squad, especially after last year, we knew we needed to create like different weapons. We needed to create goals from everywhere, last passes from everywhere, dribbles from everywhere, attacks from everywhere – not just based on counter-attack or on the speed of these two boys. I said before, they are our face, they are our frontline, they give us so much direction in our games. But what I like is that we don't have one weapon – we have so many different ways to attack. How we are evolving as a team and how we are developing with our positional game, it's important and I really like [it].

On which goalkeeper will play tomorrow night...

What's good is that we have three really good goalkeepers. Adrian, every time he needed to come in, he saved us. Caoimhin, massive talent – you cannot call him a talent anymore. He has all the characteristics we want from a Liverpool Football Club goalkeeper. He's calm, he can play, amazing shot-stopper, has the personality to not be involved for 60 minutes and then has to make a crucial save, he's somebody who can play with a lot of space in front of him – what happens a lot with our last line and the way we want to apply pressure on the opposition. And then we have Ali, and nothing to say. He's our Brazilian cat and he's everything you want from a goalkeeper. For me, he's the best goalkeeper in the world. We're really happy with all three of them. Let's see tomorrow who's going to start but I'm sure all three would do well.

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On whether Liverpool have practised penalties ahead of the second leg... 

I said this before, finals – and tomorrow is a semi-final but this is a final to reach Wembley – you don't prepare in the week coming up to the game or the five days coming up. You prepare them from the first day of pre-season. Penalties is the same case. You're not going to train penalties on the day before the game when we have these finals. We are prepared for all situations. We know how important these set-pieces are but during the whole game. We really look forward to this game. I really looked forward from when the final whistle went at Anfield because everybody was writing us off, everybody was speaking about us. We couldn't wait to go there and, how I said before, hopefully to create a special game for us. 

On how the squad are mentally and physically...

Yesterday we had what we call our second-day recovery day. We gave them a day off. We always try to balance throughout the whole season to get the right amount of days off and the right amount of days of preparations for the game. So we want to keep them hungry after each game, and recovering emotionally is really important, not just physically. But if I see yesterday [the] second-day recovery where we play a lot of rondos and they have the capacity to make a simple rondo really competitive – they shout at each other. It was a really good second day, to be honest. They look fresh but I cannot look in their brains. But how it feels now, they are hungry and they know what's at stake. It's January and the best thing what can happen in January is you talk and you prepare to reach finals. That's what Liverpool Football Club stands for, that's what we all want – to fight for prizes, to fight for the cups. We all have to travel to London and that's what we are going to do.

On whether the advantage is with Arsenal in the tie...

First of all, Arsenal always had really good players but, for me, they have a really good team at this moment. I think credit to Mikel, they matured. You see many games where the team with 10 men plays better than the 11 – not play better but they give just this extra step, they give this extra [bit] more because they know they have one player less. What happens many times with the 11 players is that they do one thing less because they know they have one player more. That's exactly what happened. Anyway, what I like about the Arsenal game is that we wanted to surprise them with our intensity and that's what we did until Xhaka went off. I really think that in football the only advantage exists if you go to the last minute of the game, to be honest. Before that, it's quite even. I think Mikel did an unbelievable job. The team is a proper team. They were struggling as well with injuries and, how you said, COVID cases and they had to change as well in the last minute, but if you can play with 10 men like that then you have a mature and good team.

Published 19th January 2022