Saturday 16 December 2017

Jurgen Klopp reveals 'special arrangements' to ensure star attacker is back from international duty sooner than most

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp Picture: Getty
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp Picture: Getty

Tom Rooney

At this stage of the season club managers regularly bemoan the inconvenient timing of the current international break, but Jurgen Klopp has ensured that one of his key players will return ahead of Saturday’s clash with Leicester as soon as humanly possible.

After spending the entire summer- with only the decidedly dour European Championships in the interim - eagerly awaiting the resumption of domestic football, it is certainly vexing to have the Premier League take a week-long hiatus just three games in.

Of course, nobody can dispute the importance of the international game, but the opening ties of what will be a two-year tilt for the World Cup in Russia simply do not generate the type of drama or, indeed, subsequent consequences, as the preliminary clashes that can so often determine how a club’s season will unfold.

It’s a gripe shared by fans with the men that guide their beloved teams of choice. Not only can the qualifiers temporarily derail nascent momentum but there is also the very real possibility that pivotal players will sustain an injury.

For those Premier League footballers who represent South American nations, lining out for their country means long and arduous journeys across continents and time zones.

Philippe Coutinho, along with Liverpool teammate Roberto Firmino, and Chelsea’s Willian, is one of three players from the English top flight in Tite’s Brazil squad.

Coutinho came off the bench to help his side defeat Ecuador by 3-0 in their qualification opener, and is likely to feature in the early hours of Wednesday morning when Brazil take on Colombia in the Arena Amazonia, Manaus.

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Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring their third goal with Nathaniel Clyne Reuters / Eddie Keogh

Liverpool face champions Leicester in the late kick off on Saturday evening at Anfield and, when considering that the playmaker has a journey of over 5,000 miles to get back to his day job, you would think his chances of participating against the Foxes would be relatively slim. 

Well, Jurgen Klopp has revealed that the 24-year-old will be en route to Merseyside not long after the final whistle has blown in the cavernous stadium.

The German, as his wont, was somewhat sanguine about the realities of sharing his players with their home nations.

“I don't get frustrated by things I cannot change,” he told the Daily Mail. “Actually, I don't think any manager in this moment is happy about the international break.

“For Coutinho, he is coming back Thursday morning at 9am and only because we make a few special arrangements with flights.

“Otherwise he would come on Thursday night, so nobody wants this. But we cannot change so why should I complain? Not to change. It's not the best moment in the season for splitting the squad again.”

Strangely, he made no mention of Firmino, who has occupied the central role of an attacking trio for all of the Reds' league games thus far; a victory over Arsenal, the shock loss to Burnley and, most recently, their draw with Spurs.

Daniel Sturridge may take some encouragement from this, given his complaints regarding Klopp’s decision to have Firmino lead the line as supposed to him.

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The England striker has expressed his distaste at being deployed out wide and looked positively irate when Divock Origi was called into action before him at White Hart Lane.

Liverpool were just one of two teams to defeat Leicester in the league during their title winning surge last term. Arsenal accounted for Claudio Ranieri’s side on both of the occasions they met.

Leicester’s defence of their crown has not begun swimmingly, and they only managed to pick up their fist win against Swansea last weekend.

Before that, they were shocked by Hull on the opening day before playing out a stalemate with the Gunners.

In the burgeoning table, the champions are in ninth, while Liverpool are positioned two places below them, so a convincing victory is paramount for both parties.

Klopp is approaching his first anniversary at the helm for Liverpool, having replaced Brendan Rodgers following a 2-2 draw in the Merseyside derby.

When the club approached Klopp, he was taking a self-imposed career break after a largely gilded spell with Borussia Dortmund, whom he led to back-to-back Bundesliga titles.

However, Klopp’s immediate affection for Liverpool compelled him to truncate his hiatus and assume the responsibility of reviving their fortunes.

“It wasn’t a big decision for me. It was the only club that could have broken up my holiday.

“I had enough offers, I was saying: ‘No, no, sorry, not now…’, and then came Liverpool. And I know how this sounds, and what people will say, but I fell in love.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool Zeljko Buvac First assistant coach and Peter Krawietz Second assistant coach during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

“I felt responsible really quickly. It’s like if you are in my inner circle, my family, my friends. I felt Liverpool was both: family and friends.”

Liverpool finished last season in eighth place, while Klopp steered them to the League Cup and Europa League finals, both of which they lost to Manchester City and Sevilla respectively.

Concerns have been expressed about Liverpool’s inconsistency under Klopp’s stewardship as well as a perceived lack of marquee signings in the recent transfer window, but the 49-year-old is certain he is the best man for the job.

“Without being the most confident person in the world, I think I am the right person for Liverpool.

“I can’t score goals and I can’t make saves. I am not saying I am the best manager in the world, either. But I’m quite good and I am one of those managers who is really interested in structure.

“I don’t sleep too long. Here is a moment when the club needs consistency in this chair - they need the right person and I am the right person, because most of the time I am really serious, but normal.

“I am not saying there was no-one else around. The club would have found another manager and I would have found another job. But I liked this club before I came here.

“The atmosphere around this club is how football should be.”

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