Friday 20 September 2019

John Aldridge: 'Jurgen Klopp has shown signs of frustration - and I can understand why'

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp

John Aldridge

LIVERPOOL'S pre-season preparation has been far from ideal and it leaves them vulnerable going into today's Community Shield game against Manchester City.

Roberto Firmino and Mohamad Salah have missed most of the build-up to the new season and while they will play some part this afternoon at Wembley, they will not be fully up to speed to take on a City side that will probably be firing and ready to go as they've had most of their players back since the start of pre-season.

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has shown some signs of frustration in his press conferences over the last couple of weeks and I can understand why, as his planning for the new season has been so disrupted by injuries to key player and the absence of others.

It makes you wonder whether clubs will start to focus on signing European players rather than African and South American stars, as their international commitments don't always fit in too well with the domestic season in this continent.

Mane is unlikely to return for the start of the Premier League season as he was playing for Senegal up to July 19th and we have had similar issues with Salah and Firmino in recent years, which have affected Liverpool's hopes.

These players want to play for their national teams, but Liverpool are paying their wages and you wonder whether there will be a point in the future when the clubs stand up and demand that international matches work around them rather than the situation we are in at the moment.

That is a debate for another day and while Klopp may be annoyed by the position he finds himself in a week before the start of the season, he has to shuffle his pack and get them into the best shape possible for what will be a crucial month of action.

This game against City today is followed up by the Premier League opener against Norwich next Friday, before the UEFA Super Cup game against Chelsea in Istanbul a few days later.

A tricky away game at Southampton then follows and if things go according to play, Liverpool could have two trophies in the cabinet and six Premier League points on the board by the time Arsenal come to Anfield at the end of this month.

That's the ideal scenario, but the alternative makes for less patentable reading for Klopp and his team of European champions.

The disrupted pre-season preparations mean Manchester City head into today's game as favourites to win the Charity Shield and while people dismiss this game as little more than a glorified pre-season friendly, I'd say it is a little more than that.

It goes without saying that the trophy up for grabs this afternoon is not the biggest prize on offer this season, but I won the Charity Shield (as it was called in my day) twice with Liverpool and am proud to have those medals in my collection.

I scored twice against Wimbledon to win the 1988 Charity Shield for Liverpool and I enjoyed those goals, as they came a few weeks after I missed a penalty against them in the FA Cup final.

Liverpool won the trophy again a year later with a win against Arsenal, as once again we got some revenge against opponents that had denied us a First Division title we deserved the previous season.

Now Liverpool have a chance to score a few phycological blows on the team that will be their chief domestic rivals once again this season, with the comments from City boss Pep Guardiola this summer confirming what we already knew about him and his team.

He did an interview on Spanish TV a few weeks back and spoke about the fear factor Anfield holds for every opponent and also spoke about the threat Liverpool pose to his team, in what was a surprisingly honest confession.

I admire Guardiola and respect him as a fine manager, but it's surprising that he has been so open in admitting he fears Liverpool and everything about the club.

The 5-1 Champions League quarter-final drubbing Liverpool handed to City a couple of seasons back left a lasting scar and we saw the effect of that in the way Guardiola instructed his team to play in the two matches against Klopp's side last season.

Pep admitted he has never sent a team out with more caution in mind than he did at Anfield last season, when he played defensively and tried to hit Liverpool on the break.

It very nearly worked as Riyad Mahrez missed a late penalty to win it and we saw similar cautious tactics in the second game at the Etihad Stadium, as City got lucky to pick up a win that proved to be so crucial in a title race they won by a solitary point.

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Mahrez misses a late penalty at Anfield as City draw 0-0 with title rivals Liverpool (Martin Rickett/PA)

Against a Liverpool side that are not quite ready for a match of this magnitude today, it will be interesting to see how Guardiola tackles a game that gives both sides a chance to inflict a jab onto the jaw of their opponents.

It is advantage City given Liverpool's problems over the last month, but Klopp will still send a strong team into battle at Wembley, with Xherdan Shaqiri or Divock Origi taking the place of the absent Mane.

I still believe that Liverpool are a better side than City when both teams are at their best and the games between the two teams over the last couple of years back up that argument, but Guardiola and his players will fancy themselves to take advantage of their opponent's problems today.

It will need massive performances from keeper Alisson and defensive talisman Virgil van Dijk and if they can hold firm at the back, City's discomfort playing against Liverpool could be exposed once again.

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