Reds boss bemoans loss of Coutinho for poor run of form
When pushed for an answer, Jurgen Klopp can trace the moment Liverpool's season turned from highly promising to tormenting. It was 30 minutes into their home victory over Sunderland in late-November; Philippe Coutinho suffered an ankle injury that kept him out for six weeks, and Liverpool have not been the same since.
In those days, the hope was that today's visit of Tottenham Hotspur would have title ramifications. It still does, but only for Mauricio Pochettino's side.
Klopp's dream now is 14 consecutive wins to secure Champions League qualification, a reflection of how quickly their targets have shifted. The Liverpool manager accepts some responsibility, but suggested misfortune has been an overlooked factor.
"To finally judge this squad this season is only possible if you stay with Phil at the highest level because that is what Chelsea have," said Klopp. "They are going through the season playing 13 or 14 players maximum. OK, they have 20 players, but they usually only use 13 or 14.
"I know that is not something you can put in an explanation.
"It is not only this but it is part of this. To be 100-per-cent successful you need this bit of luck. Of course the influence from us could have been bigger than it was. But you cannot be champions without luck. That is impossible. We had the opposite of luck until now.
"If you have luck you don't talk about it, if you don't have luck you are not allowed to talk about it. We didn't have luck. Injuries in the wrong moment, refereeing decisions in the wrong situations, offside or not, goals conceded, penalties not given and what not.
"We didn't do everything right in games, of course that is true, but it is not that it is as bad as how it looks now. It was not the widest squad in world football because of the situation, because of different things.
"Obviously in a few games we could not react how we maybe should have. That is my responsibility. We can solve the problems but we have to show it on the pitch and not here."
Critics will counter that Coutinho, alongside Sadio Mane, was part of the side who lost so poorly at Hull last weekend. But Klopp says the Brazilian has been forced to work his way back to form and fitness during games.
"He is the type of guy who takes everything into games. He takes all the responsibility in the world," said Klopp. "It was the same thing with Sadio coming back from Africa. You saw the first half [at Hull] and you saw the second half and you think 'OK, that is not how he usual is.' You cannot know before."
Klopp was critical of his players last weekend, but adamant they can make amends over the next few months. "We have to accept that we cannot be champions this year. But there is still everything else to go for," he said. "The boys are still really, really good players. I am still an absolutely OK manager. That didn't change because of a few bad results.
"I am the guy who is responsible. I don't sit at home and criticise myself and take a bath in self-pity. I know about the things that I did because I thought they were right. Did I have another alternative? I'm not sure."
Klopp believes his side are capable of ending the campaign flawlessly. "It is possible. That is how football is. We have 14 games and it is possible to win 14 games."
He has a decision to make on goalkeeper Simon Mignolet as he considers if it is the right moment to recall Loris Karius. Both defender Dejan Lovren and midfielder Adam Lallana need a fitness test before the game. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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