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Klopp stands up for Lovren as Cup tie looms large

FA Cup 5th round: Chelsea v Liverpool,  BBC 1 / Eir Spt 2 (KO 7.45)


Dejan Lovren

Dejan Lovren

Dejan Lovren

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has leapt to the defence of centre-back Dejan Lovren after he was roundly criticised following Saturday's surprise 3-0 defeat against Watford.

A first Premier League defeat of the season ended Liverpool's hopes of breaking a host of records, with Lovren's shaky display against Watford captain Troy Deeney highlighted as one of the key reasons for the setback.

Deeney suggested after the game that he targeted Lovren as a weak link in the make-up of the Premier League leaders, but Klopp stressed the Croatian defender was not alone in failing to produce his best as Liverpool were stung by the Hornets.

"It was a massive challenge for Dejan to play against Troy Deeney," said Klopp. "So many other centre-halves in the world would struggle in these specific situations.

"If you can tell me one player on Saturday who played his normal level, I would be really surprised. It's not because two boys played who didn't play a week or two before, it's absolutely nothing to do with that."

Klopp went on to insist the team he selects for tonight's FA Cup fifth-round clash at Chelsea will not be impacted by the need to bounce back from the Watford defeat, but he gave a broad hint that he would select a host of first-team regulars after relying on young players in the earlier rounds.

"You don't want to lose football games. Do we want to win the game more because we lost the last one? I don't know," he stated. "We want to win football games constantly.

"It will not be easier for us because we lost the last game and now we have extra motivation or whatever. Chelsea have plenty of reasons why they want to go through, so it will be a tough one. It's the FA Cup and two big teams play against each other, it will be interesting.

"There's for sure no favourite in this game and, if then, it is Chelsea because they play at home."

Chelsea's progress has been severely dented this season due to a number of injury setbacks and several senior players will be unavailable tonight.

Players such as influential midfielder N'Golo Kante have had a stop-start campaign while others like Antonio Rudiger have either returned from injury recently or been sidelined like winger Christian Pulisic.

"There were a few (injuries) overlapping from last year, which were huge: N'Golo Kante, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Antonio Rudiger. It's been an issue and now we have another bulk," manager Frank Lampard said when asked why Chelsea have struggled.