Tuesday 15 October 2019

Robertson: We're missing spark but we're confident we'll get through

Liverpool's Andrew Robertson. Photo: Reuters
Liverpool's Andrew Robertson. Photo: Reuters

Chris Bascombe

Liverpool returned to Merseyside for a training-ground inquest into their Belgrade debacle yesterday as Jurgen Klopp led the search for his team's missing "spark".

A third consecutive away defeat in the Champions League undermined hopes of progress to the knockout phase, albeit another draw between Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain was helpful.

All four clubs in Group C have a chance of qualification going into the last two fixtures but, for Klopp, the process of resolving the multitude of problems evident during the 2-0 loss must begin.

"The gaffer, win or lose, he always speaks more the day after the game because that's when he can clear his head and that's where he gets the best out of us, where he can talk from his thoughts," said defender Andy Robertson. "That's what he's always done. It's no different if we win or lose, but we'll definitely have a debrief and I'm sure things will be said."

While such meetings are routine, the tone of yesterday's needed to be more forthright than usual. Klopp said the team "lost its mojo" in Serbia.

"Maybe we are missing a bit of a spark in terms of not winning four or five-nil in most games, but if he thinks that, we need to try to get it back," said the Scotland captain.

"We need to come together as a team and try to get what the gaffer wants, try to get the spark and try to win games more comfortably.

"It's one of those periods we need to get through. Last season everyone was used to us scoring four or five goals. That can't be possible every game.

"At times we've dug out results, in the Premier League more so this season. Maybe it's not been as good to look at, but we've been effective at it."

What differed against Red Star was for the first time this season Liverpool's defence failed to cloak deficiencies further forward. This was a night the back four needed the attackers to rediscover their form. It did not happen.

Klopp can point to the fact Dejan Lovren was a late withdrawal through illness, which meant the rarely-used Joel Matip was paired with Virgil van Dijk.

Although retrospective criticism hinted at an error - or even complacency - in leaving out Roberto Firmino, before the game Klopp was directly questioned on whether the Brazilian needed a rest. It would be hypocritical to argue the selection of Daniel Sturridge was wrong, given the clamour to refresh the line-up in view of the busy schedule. Klopp would have hoped for more from those called up.

It could be argued Klopp has over-protected summer recruits Naby Keita and Fabinho. Liverpool need the pair to start delivering. They did not arrive for £ 96 million to spend tough Champions League away days on the bench, but their early form has been well below what was anticipated.

Perhaps the biggest concern remains the inconsistent form of the forward line so lethal a year ago, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane enduring another difficult evening.

For all that, Liverpool return to Premier League action against Fulham on Sunday seeking to prolong their best start to a domestic season.

Robertson was keen for some perspective, pointing out performances such as that on Tuesday and against Napoli earlier in the group have been infrequent.

"It's just games that we haven't shown up at. They're probably the only ones this season we haven't, for whatever reason," he said.

"In Naples, we were very poor. It was the exact same [in Belgrade]. They've been off days and we need to look at that. We knew this group was going to be tough. It will go right to the wire. We're still confident we'll get through."


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