Liverpool boss accentuates the positives ahead of crucial month
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he is invigorated rather than daunted about a potentially defining new year schedule.
By the time the club face Leicester on February 2, Klopp will have a fuller idea as to whether his squad can achieve this season's ambitions or a bigger rebuild is demanded.
Liverpool have the two-legged semi-final with Stoke City, high-profile Premier League games with Arsenal and Manchester United and a Friday-night FA Cup tie at Exeter City to contend with.
"To say January is decisive? We will see," said Klopp. "I've never been worried about a football game. I'm the first to be excited when you have a chance to reach something big. Of course we see this. But I can't say I've been waiting all my life for Liverpool v Manchester United or Liverpool v Arsenal. We must wait for the single game. I can't say, 'January is this or this' - it is going to be hard work.
"If you ask me what I am dreaming of it is getting all the points and taking each step in the cup but it's difficult for all teams, especially for all those in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup."
Klopp's problems with the fixture schedule are reinforced by injuries to Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi, the latter ruled out for three weeks with a hamstring problem.
"It's difficult to talk about the middle of January because we need to be focused on the start of January," said the German coach. "We have to recover and prepare for West Ham, then Stoke, then Exeter then Arsenal. We need the players of course, and see who is coming back which is easier in some cases than others.
"I want to get more points than the first half of the season and go as far as possible in all the cups. With the Capital One Cup and Europa League we have four games more than most other teams - at an intensive moment - because we have been successful.
"The good thing in this moment is we have played different styles and adapted against special opponents. That is the next step. It is not what we always want to do but at a time like this football is not easy."
Klopp, meanwhile, has shrugged off comments from Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce describing him as a "soft German" following Wednesday's 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light. Klopp was incensed a late challenge by Jeremain Lens on Mamadou Sakho went unpunished, prompting Allardyce's comment. The Football Association said the context of the comments ensured there was no cause for disciplinary action. "It's not a problem," said Klopp. "A lot of people have said worse things about me. If you see the [tackle] again, then you will know I was not wrong in my judgment of this.
"That's all I want to say. I had no arguments with the bench of Sunderland."
Having been linked with Liverpool's next opponents - West Ham - prior to moving to Anfield, Klopp added: "The Hammers. More my second name than 'soft'. West Ham is a good club but it was the wrong time, like all the clubs who approached me in the summer."
Liverpool have recalled teenage winger Ryan Kent from a loan spell with Coventry City as Klopp seeks to swell his first team squad.
The 19-year-old has impressed at the League One side, and his club manager wants a closer look at the youngster with a view to fast-tracking him into the senior side.
The academy graduate has made 16 appearances in the English Midlands, scoring once.
Kent is a versatile attacking player who can be used on both wings and also in a No 10 role.
Elsewhere, Chelsea are hoping Gary Cahill recovers from injury in time for Sunday's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Cahill has an ankle problem and is a minor doubt for the London derby, but interim-manager Guus Hiddink expects him to be given the all clear to face the fifth-placed Eagles.
"Gary Cahill didn't train on Wednesday, which means he has a little problem," Hiddink said.
"He has an ankle injury - some ligaments are a bit tight - but we have several days to go, so I'm not negative about him."
Striker Loic Remy is a doubt for the clash because of a calf problem, but there is no concern over Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard who sustained minor knocks in the goalless draw with Manchester United.