Saturday 21 April 2018

'It is good to have fantasy football but we need results' - Klopp targets defensive solidity to spark Euro campaign


Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool can go one better tonight than their opening night draw against Sevilla. Photo: Reuters/John Sibley
Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool can go one better tonight than their opening night draw against Sevilla. Photo: Reuters/John Sibley

Tim Rich

If Liverpool are to make an impact in the Champions League in a way they have not done since Rafa Benitez ran the club, the swashbuckling has to stop.

Once Liverpool stormed the great winter palaces of European football. Under Benitez they won in the Bernabeu, in the Nou Camp and at the San Siro. The Otkritie Arena, the new home of the Russian champions Spartak Moscow, lacks that kind of epic grandeur.

However, Jurgen Klopp recognised that having conceded 13 goals in five away games, Liverpool have to achieve some defensive balance to get anywhere near the business end of a competition that they have relished perhaps more than any other English club.

"It is good to have fantasy football but we need results," said Klopp, whose first group game had seen Liverpool dominate Sevilla and somehow contrive to draw 2-2. "In the right moments we need to do the right things. It is not about being spectacular."

The plane that took Liverpool from Merseyside to Moscow contained its fair share of fantasy footballers. For the first time since they overwhelmed Bayern Munich in their own stadium in the pre-season Audi Cup, Liverpool could field a forward line of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. "All artists together," said the Liverpool manager with a smile. "Could we play all four together? Well, perhaps."


Klopp preferred not to dwell on the squandered opportunities against Sevilla at Anfield but after a frantic 3-2 win at Leicester that followed a 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City with a 2-0 League Cup defeat squeezed in between, he knows this is a pattern that cannot continue.

"We started with a home game against Sevilla and we didn't win, so that's not a positive but in the end it is still a point," he said. "But, if we don't win any away games, then we have no chance or at the very least it will be very difficult to get into the next round."

When it was pointed out that Liverpool have won only three of their last 13 Champions League fixtures, Klopp answered with one of his familiar shrugs. "Records like that are a problem when people remember them," he said. "We are not the same team, only the same name."

The name of Spartak Moscow is perhaps the grandest in Russian football. Of Moscow's great clubs it was the people's team, the only one that had no direct link to the State. It was their Juventus, their Manchester United.

In May just as Antonio Conte was taking Chelsea to the Premier League title, his long-time assistant Massimo Carrera was ending 16 empty years by driving Spartak to their first championship since 2001.

When asked how he had done it, Carrera said he had simply employed the methods that Conte - whom he still refers to as "the boss" - had taught him. With Carlo Ancelotti winning the Bundesliga with Bayern and Massimo Allegri cementing another title with Juventus, 2017 was the year of the Italian manager.

However, Spartak's defence of their title began against another Italian manager, Roberto Mancini. Zenit St Petersburg won 5-1. Both Moscow derbies were lost.

The Otkritie bank who had sponsored their new stadium are in financial trouble. The flare fired at the referee during Spartak's opening Champions League game at Maribor means their away fans will be banned from their next away game in Seville.

The club's owner, the oil billionaire Leonid Fedun, has given interviews saying he is tired of the stress. Conte has a name for what his old friend is enduring. It is called a 'Mourinho season' and Carrera may not survive it. (© Independent News Service)

Spartak Moscow v Liverpool, live, Eir Sport 2, 7.45

Irish Independent

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