Saturday 20 July 2019

Klopp wary of Palace repeat upsetting latest title bid

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp makes his point to Naby Keita during training. Photo: Getty Images
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp makes his point to Naby Keita during training. Photo: Getty Images

Simon Hughes

Jurgen Klopp had not given it a moment's consideration: not how Anfield would react, nor even the wider community in Liverpool but rather, the rest of the country and the supporters of all the other teams from all of the other towns and cities, should he steer the side he manages so well to their first league title in 29 years.

It is not an exact science and it is not necessarily being judged from the most balanced or stable of platforms but if Liverpool are one of the most followed clubs on the internet, it equally sometimes seems as though it is one of the most hated.

Klopp was surprised to hear about an "anyone but Liverpool" sentiment gathering pace but he did have an instant response of sorts for those desperate to witness him fail.

"I love winning because of winning and not because someone else has to lose," he said at Melwood yesterday when asked whether he could use the environment of feeling to create a siege mentality.

"I cannot take a personal boost from winning and thinking they lost. I am not like that. If people think like that and gain something out of the fact that we will not win the league, I feel for them. I cannot use them for motivation because they are not people I am interested in to be honest. It is a waste of time for me to think of anybody losing something."

For Klopp, the prospect of facing Crystal Palace was the immediate consideration; opponents who were able to triumph at a venue where Liverpool ultimately could not, having surprised Manchester City, beating them 3-2 away last month. On a week where the line between studying, scouting and spying has become blurred because of the methods of other managers, Klopp went into detail about his own planning. He had started by watching Palace's victory at the Etihad, a result he thinks will help focus the minds of his players rather than instil trepidation. Listening to him, it sounded as though an element of fortune featured amongst his conclusions.

"The percentage possession was 70 or 80 (for City). That's massive. They (Palace) scored a beautiful goal. Hopefully (Andros) Townsend will not do that again!" he said. "In counter-attacks, at set-pieces, it is clear: they are good. That's how a game can happen. But there are other games. We needed to see them play football as well. There was not too much in that game (against City).

"That's why I watched three different types of games, and at least two away games but one home game as well because it gives you a better picture of what they do if you let them. That makes it more important that you don't allow them. If you let Crystal Palace play, they are really good - that's how it is.

"They play a direct style and they defend pretty deep but at Crystal Palace (when Liverpool won, 2-0) they did exactly the same and we scored at least one goal on a counter-attack after a set-piece. Using situations like this, it's all important."

The involvement of Roy Hodgson as well as the club he now leads provides another opportunity for Liverpool to show far they have travelled since Fenway Sports Group's takeover eight years ago. Hodgson was the manager the investment firm inherited before sacking him three months later and yesterday, Hodgson reflected on the period, saying flatly: "I don't look back with fond memories."

Palace, of course, were the last team to beat Liverpool at Anfield in a league game nearly 22 months ago, an outcome which left Liverpool in third position at the end of April with just nine points more than they have now, having played 12 fewer games in the course of a season.

A present full-strength Liverpool would include no more than four individuals who featured in that defeat and with Andy Robertson committing his long-term future by signing a new deal this week, it means Klopp has at least 11 players whose contracts exceed his own, which ends in 2022.

He would dismiss the suggestion there was any rush for discussions, just as he seemed to dismiss rumours that he might consider bringing Philippe Coutinho back to Merseyside despite the Brazilian's struggles at Barcelona and the apparent willingness to sell him.

Klopp also rejected the idea that one of his best friends David Wagner, having resigned as Huddersfield's manager, would reinforce his own staff. "David is a manager now, not a coach," he reasoned.

He views the state of Liverpool as healthy, indicating that if they do not become champions this soon, it could still happen under his guidance. Relating to contracts, he added: "Keeping all of them together would mean we would have a better chance of making the next step next season than we had in previous years."

© Independent News Service

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