Saturday 10 December 2016

Jurgen Klopp is giving Pep Guardiola a run for his money as football's toughest taskmaster

Tom Rooney

Published 21/09/2016 | 18:24

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is comfortable having to make big selection decisions
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is comfortable having to make big selection decisions

It is very likely that the necessity of tempering expectations was among the first entries into the football managers’ almanac, but Jurgen Klopp is beginning to border on the indifferent.

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If not for the vapid showing in losing 2-0 to Burnley in their second league outing, Liverpool would  be behind second placed Everton on just goal difference.

The display at Turf Moor is increasingly looking like an anomaly in light of their subsequent performances.

A draw against Tottenham, though eminently winnable, was followed by conclusive victories over Leicester City and, last Friday, Chelsea.

The latter win, at Stamford Bridge, snapped the hosts unbeaten run under Antonio Conte and provided undeniable evidence of the squad’s maturation since last term.

Liverpool have travelled to the English capital three times this season - Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea - and returned to Merseyside with seven of a possible nine points.

Last night, despite Klopp making seven changes from the weekend, Liverpool made easy work of Derby at the iPro Stadium to progress to the fourth round of the EFL Cup.

The 3-0 win was facilitated by strikes from Ragnar Klavan, Phillippe Coutinho and Divock Origi.

Klopp has begun his first full season at the helm with five victories from seven games, all the while bedding in new personnel, but he admitted to feeling somewhat underwhelmed by events.

“The pleasing thing is that I don’t feel anything – it’s not that we are surprised and think ‘OK, let’s take a week’s break and celebrate it,’”he told lfc.com

“We had the games, we played them, we are professionals.

“I don’t want to underestimate it and say it’s normal. I know what the fixtures are and we have to play them again next year probably, that’s not a problem. In this moment, for us it is absolutely OK and it’s actually what we expected from us.”

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For all his side-line gesticulating and man-hugs, the German can be as stoic as the best of them, much like Pep Guardiola.

What will be pleasing after the his side’s latest victory, is that it was achieved while handing goalkeeper Loris Karius and Marko Grujic their first competitive starts since joining the club, a debut for academy prospect Ovie Ejara, and introducing Danny Ings for the first time this season.

Furthermore, the imperious Roberto Firmino showed no adverse affects from the groin issue that precluded him from taking part against Chelsea, while Emre Can also returned after sustaining a serious black eye in training.

Klopp’s time at Anfield  has often been blighted by injuries but with a near full deck to choose from, the former Dortmund coach is encouraged by the prospect of selection headaches.

"The more players I have, the more difficult choices there are for me but the better it is for LFC

"Can's fitness is not a problem. He has a strong mentality and fight but it is about rhythm - we can't go into a shop and buy rhythm. I don't rush it and Emre is cool about it."

“It was a difficult time (for Ings), I know this but, like all the others, he's on a really good way and everybody can see this. We will see what will happen, but he's still an important player for us and it's all good."

Liverpool welcome Hull City to Anfield on Saturday afternoon, kick off is at 3 pm.

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