Thursday 14 December 2017

Going down to the wire is normal for Klopp

Klopp: ‘We have to be well organised’. Photo: PA Wire
Klopp: ‘We have to be well organised’. Photo: PA Wire

Mike Whalley

If Liverpool's composure and ability to handle the pressure of a season-defining final game with Middlesbrough can be gauged by their manager, Jurgen Klopp, then Anfield will surely be celebrating Champions League football by the end of play today.

Recent home form - defeat by lowly Crystal Palace, error-strewn draws with Bournemouth and Southampton - suggest victory against Steve Agnew's long-relegated side may not be quite the formality the table suggests.

But, as Liverpool attempt to hold off Arsenal's late-season charge, if there is any internal anxiety around Anfield, it is not evident in the 49-year-old German. "Have a look at my career, my seasons were always on the last match," said Klopp, who failed to qualify for the Champions League almost exactly 12 months ago by losing the Europa League final to Sevilla.

"I would like to change it but obviously it was part of my life. I am completely used to working until the last minute, being concentrated until the last minute. Most decisions are made in the last moment.

"The more you try, the bigger your desire is, the more likely you will have these kind of finals. For me, it is kind of a normal situation.

"I know how people feel when they go to the stadium, they're like, [gasps, bites fist] 'Oh my God, please' but we have to be smart as well as emotional. We have to be well organised, but fluid also. That's what you have to be in all games.

"Only if you let it be more difficult, it is more difficult. It's all about us and this team showed me so often they are really ready for situations like this. We have to show it again, it will be fine."

Although Klopp's touchline antics could never be described as relaxed, his loose demeanour off the field can only have been helped by the club's owners handing him a new six-year contract last summer, less than a year after his arrival at the club.

Even failure to finish in the top four - which would bring with it the poisoned chalice of an exhausting Europa League campaign - would seemingly not diminish his standing in the eyes of his American employers.

"One hundred per cent," said Klopp when asked if he felt he had unconditional backing of Fenway Sports Group. "They showed that in the moment they offered me a new contract. There was absolutely no need now for it but they thought this is now perfect for the development and that's what we're all thinking, we're all believing.

"But nobody should be in doubt that I have pressure. I have pressure in my own life and pressure because I play football since I am five and I want to win each game. So, I'm used to this pressure."

Klopp, who confirmed that long- injured club captain Jordan Henderson would not be fit to play for England next month due to his foot problem, also believes that a top-four finish will be fully deserved for his players.

"Yes, 100 per cent," he said. "This is a special season. They were always ready to bounce back in different situations. They were always focused. Yes, I think they really deserve it."

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