Thursday 23 November 2017

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp reveals 'intensive' defensive meetings

Lovren: Available after injury. Photo: Richard Sellers / PA Wire
Lovren: Available after injury. Photo: Richard Sellers / PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

Jurgen Klopp has held "intensive" meetings with his Liverpool players in an effort to improve their calamitous set-piece defending.

Liverpool have conceded 13 goals as a result of corners and free-kicks this season - only Bournemouth and Swansea have let in more - and it will be no surprise if Mark Hughes, the Stoke City manager, abandons his purist ideals to take a more direct route in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at Anfield tonight.

Klopp said that he and his staff were working overtime to eradicate a recurring weakness. "We know about this problem. Sorry to say, it's not a problem we can ignore," the Liverpool manager said.

"It's obvious we didn't do it too well but we are a football team and always work on our weaknesses. That is not too easy in this short period.

"We spoke about it intensively - had a good talk together. It wasn't the first one but hopefully it was the last one.

"It's not about formation or the quality of the set-plays but what we are doing in these situations. We were defending the first ball well but struggling with the second or third. We are fully focused on the first situation but not after.

"It's not too late to learn but I would say it is time to learn and to show we have learnt. We are not ignoring the problem. Most of the time we know how it works but we try to change it now."

Klopp - who switched from zonal to man-to-man marking against Norwich City last weekend - said that part of the problem had been injuries to defenders, meaning that he had never had a settled back four since joining the club in October.

"We've had to change the centre-halves at a time when you wouldn't usually change the centre-halves," he said.

"Dejan Lovren was in a really good shape. Martin Skrtel was in a really good shape.

"Then Mamadou Sakho got an injury and then he's come back. Kolo [Toure] has had to always play and that's not perfect. We are always having to solve problems."

Ally this to the indecision of the goalkeepers Simon Mignolet and Adam Bogdan, and the growing confidence of opponents who sense unease from set-pieces, and it is clear why Klopp refers to the problem as a "self-fulfilling prophecy".

Liverpool have Lovren available again following a hamstring strain, but it is unlikely that he will return immediately.

Toure and Sakho are poised to continue as a pair. Steven Caulker is cup-tied. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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