Thursday 19 April 2018

Jurgen Klopp claims Manchester United's long-ball style helped Liverpool prepare for West Brom

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho before the match
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho before the match

Chris Bascombe

Jürgen Klopp says Manchester United’s physical, long-ball game has given Liverpool a taste of what is to come when they play West Bromwich Albion this weekend.

The Liverpool coach identified similarities between Jose Mourinho’s strategy at Anfield on Monday and what he anticipates from Tony Pulis’s side this weekend, with packed defences and rampant conservatism becoming a familiar problem for the Merseyside club.

United applied this to maximum effect in Monday’s 0-0 Anfield draw. Asked if United’s tactics will ready Liverpool for West Brom, Klopp replied: “Yes, partly. We all know we have had to watch out for a few problems that we had last season, although we are not suffering from the same amount.

“We are a football-playing side and Manchester United was more physical and stronger than we were with a lot of tall players.

“We did it well and I cannot remember there was a big advantage in this game out of these situations. We need to be ready again for situations like this. You can always use a few things from the last game, but on the other hand it will be different again.

“Defending these balls was important, very important in the United game, and will be important in the next game. Playing football would have been important in the Man United game and will be very important in the West Brom game. There is a lot of work to do.”

Mourinho had suggested it was Liverpool who were more cautious in Monday’s drab encounter, the press conferences since the fixture including far more attacking content than the game itself.

Jurgen Klopp with Dejan Lovren

“I have learnt early on in my career you cannot win the game after the game,” said Klopp on Mourinho’s comments.

“We have a point and it felt positive because it was one more than before the game. We had worst results in the past and I am fine. It was a good experience for us, we were not perfect, that is all. I don’t care what anybody says after the game. I know the game already and I know what I have to learn from it. I don’t know 100 per cent but I am pretty sure how they [West Brom] will play. We have another day to prepare for that.”

Although Liverpool are accustomed to sides fighting relegation or in mid-table adopting a defensive approach against them, it is rare when their traditional rivals for Champions League positions do so.

Both United and Chelsea have gone into games more preoccupied with nullifying Liverpool’s attack than exposing any defensive frailties.

"But that makes sense,” said Klopp. “Even if you are 15th in the league after bad performance after bad performance after bad performance, you are still Liverpool. And if they beat you, they make a big thing about it. We cannot ignore our responsibility with this name [Liverpool], so you have to play this kind of football. But even if you don’t give us a lot of space, we can still create things and that makes a good team.”

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Klopp insists he has no concerns about goalkeeper Loris Karius facing what is sure to be a trial by set-piece against the Baggies. If there is one game to test the speed of the new Liverpool No 1’s adaptability in English football, this will be it.

“It has been a very good start,” insisted Klopp. “We watched him for a long time, especially the last two years in the Bundesliga. He was outstanding. He is still a young boy but this is something different. The Premier League is a different style of play, generally and in a specific case. I feel quite comfortable. It is not perfect. He can improve. As a keeper you take a risk sometimes because the ball is bouncing.”

West Brom secured a 2-2 draw at Anfield last season, a game remembered for the way Klopp celebrated the last-minute equaliser for Divock Origi by leading his player to bow in front of The Kop.

“I celebrated the point and it was a little bit surprising for most people. I don’t know at this point if I would celebrate a point again,” he said.

“But we are full of respect. West Brom is a very experienced team with a very experienced manager. They don’t want to make it easy for us so we have to find a way to play them. We need to be angry, that’s true, and be patient enough. All they are doing when defending is to make us seem uncomfortable. We are ready for a real, tough football game. They are very good at set-pieces. We can not choose their way and they can not choose our way.”

Liverpool hope to have Gini Wijnaldum back from a hamstring injury. Adam Lallana is also in line to start, having come off the bench against Manchester United.

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