Monday 5 December 2016

Liverpool's strategy for rivals' European nights is pure Jurgen Klopp

Tom Rooney

Published 11/08/2016 | 16:01

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp applauds after his team's Wembley win over Barcelona
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp applauds after his team's Wembley win over Barcelona

Given the prestige and, indeed, windfall that accompanies Champions League participation, it’s little wonder that many elite clubs view the competition as the purest barometer for success but, further down the rung, the avoidance of its inferior sibling is often an equally sought after feat.

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Although it would not be prudent to admit as much in public, it’s difficult to imagine that too many managers crave a spot in the Europa League.

Journeys to the far corners of the continent, to take on sides only the most informed of football boffins are acquainted with, is not exactly a sign that your club is on the up.

Thursday night matches are less than convenient, while they further congest an already cloistered fixture list.

Had Liverpool won this year’s final against a buccaneering Sevilla outfit who, after the Reds’ second half implosion, clinched the competition for the third year in a row, they would have secured a Champions League spot.

It was not to be and, in tandem with their eighth place finish in the Premier League, the Anfield side will only be competing in domestic endeavours this season. 

Jurgen Klopp, as his players have undoubtedly been reminded of this summer, is a manager who places the utmost priority on extensive preparations, both tactically and physically.

The one positive Klopp has been able to glean from that 3-1 loss in Basle last May, is that he now has more time to refine his team on the paddock at Melwood.

“When we lost the Europa League final, there was absolutely nothing worthwhile about it, just a load of disappointment.

“In the end the only positive thing about not playing European football this year is that we have more time to train and that is what we have to use, 100 per cent,” he told Liverpoolfc.com.

Klopp has considerably modified the squad over the last month, all the while playing nine friendlies across two continents.

Liverpool take on Arsenal at the Emirates in their Premier League opener on Sunday, and Klopp maintains that he is determined to harness an environment of collective cohesion, but also one that encourages the players to compete fiercely for places.

“That’s why we need to create a very strong team in the best understanding of the word ‘team’. We need to have competition. 

“We need a situation where the players push themselves and each one pushes the other for each position and wants to be in the team because you have time to recover.

“So it’s not that you have to change the team a lot between two Saturday games or two Sunday games - it’s nothing about rotation. It’s about: ‘OK, who is ready now? Who is ready to perform how we need in each specific game?’”

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