Saturday 14 December 2019

Jurgen Klopp surprised with Liverpool's progress because of the superior financial power of their rivals

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

Mike Whalley

Jurgen Klopp has indicated that Liverpool have surpassed his expectations this season by mounting a credible bid to win the Premier League.

Klopp’s side are in third place, seven points behind leaders Chelsea, as they prepare to host bottom club Swansea at Anfield Saturday lunchtime.

Liverpool’s home form has given them hope that they might yet have a chance of eliminating that gap, as 10 of their final 17 league games are at Anfield, where they have not lost in any competition for almost a year.

Although Klopp led the club to two cup finals last season, they finished a disappointing eighth in the Premier League, and the manager was not expecting such a significant improvement.

Liverpool’s squad has been less stretched this season, helped by the lack of European football, but the manager is still of the view that the level of progress has been surprising.

He said: “The only thing I want is that, as a club, we enjoy this situation because I think it is better than we could have expected last summer, not because of the quality we have, but because of the strength of the league and the financial power of some of the opponents.”

Klopp’s suggestion that the Premier League is a much tougher competition at the top end this season has been borne out by the fact that his team are so far behind the leaders despite having lost only twice.

With Chelsea having dropped only 11 points all season, three of them to Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in September, making up the gap leaves virtually no margin for error as Klopp attempts to bring the English title to Anfield for the first time since 1990.

The manager has made clear, though, that he has no intention of spending time worrying about the permutations, and the results of Liverpool’s rivals, preferring to leave that to the supporters.

Klopp said: “The run-in has started already. I think that usually when you get to the last five or six games, you need to be around the top, and then go for it.

“But now I know what the supporters are doing. I have two sons and they are mainly supporters and they always say: ‘You have to win this, because they then play against them.’ But I think you have to win your games and then you see what happens elsewhere.

“Of course you all play against each other. We have to play all the other teams at the top. When can you win? When can you lose? Actually you can lose nowhere. We lost two Premier League games and that is not a lot... but we are only third.”

Klopp, meanwhile, has declared that he will continue to support Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge despite their poor form in attack.

Origi has gone eight games without a goal, missing a penalty during Wednesday’s FA Cup third-round replay win at Plymouth, while Sturridge, making only his eighth start of the season following a series of injury problems, did not look anywhere near his best and was substituted with 14 minutes to go.

Klopp said: “It's not a worry. Of course, for both Daniel and Divock, it was not a world-class performance but that is how it is. They have not lost their quality. It was only in this game.

“Of course, in some of the other games, they were not at their best too, but that is how it is. We cannot give everybody the rhythm.

“Daniel was back after injury, Divock was in, then out, so that is how it is with human beings, but I see them in training and everything is there.

“There were only a few wrong decisions in the game and it is not too good but still all absolutely on the right way.”

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