Sunday 15 September 2019

We can't complain about our situation, says fired-up Klopp

Jurgen Klopp: ‘We want to be playing and winning, not sitting at home and hoping the others lose’. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers
Jurgen Klopp: ‘We want to be playing and winning, not sitting at home and hoping the others lose’. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Paul Wilson

Jurgen Klopp freely admits he does not get out much - no chatting with shoppers in supermarket queues or reliving games with neighbours at the end of the street, though he knows exactly how excited Liverpool followers are feeling at the moment.

"I know because all my life I have been a pure football supporter," he says. "Nothing else, so I don't need to read or hear it, it's football. I know the city is buzzing and I can imagine people want to go and celebrate, to talk about how we are doing, but we are not part of that.

"We just have to make sure it stays like this and, believe me, that's not a problem. I love the situation we are in. We want to play and, if we are tired, we don't feel it. We want to be playing and winning, not sitting at home and hoping the others lose or whatever. We are really in a proper competition mood right now."

The Liverpool manager evidently does spend quite a bit of time sitting watching others, however, for he hardly seems to miss a game on television. "Cardiff should have beaten Chelsea a couple of weeks ago," he says of Sunday's opponents. "That's how dangerous they can be.

"They were 1-0 up and then conceded a goal that was offside. Everybody in football saw that."

Everybody in football saw Manchester City v Tottenham as well, including Klopp, who only happened to be dealing with an away Champions League quarter-final the same night and who remains locked in a fascinating battle with Pep Guardiola's side for the league title.

"I really felt for them at the end of the game," he says. "The decision might have been the right one but no one spotted it at the time and to go out like that after celebrating winning must have been horrible."

Liverpool play Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals and, if Klopp's players are considered second favourites in that contest as well as the Premier League, it is a situation the manager is relaxed about. His side could end up with one or both of the two richest prizes on offer in European football, or they could end up with nothing. It is not a bad situation to be in in mid-April, with just a handful of games left to play.

"It is not perfect but we have nothing to complain about either," Klopp says, managing to sound blasé about reaching a second successive Champions League semi-final at the same time as challenging for the Premier League table.

In view of City's continued inability to get beyond the last eight in Europe, the consistency and level of performance Klopp has imposed after years of Anfield underachievement is impressive in its own right for, as he points out, this is a particularly competitive domestic season as well as a hugely challenging one in Europe.

Liverpool's present league points total of 85, for example, would have been enough to secure the title in nine of the 26 seasons of the Premier League's existence. On only six occasions within that time frame has the title been won by a side amassing more than 90 points, yet this season will almost certainly see the first time that two teams break that barrier.

"It's absolutely crazy in England at the moment," Klopp says approvingly. "You might see two teams with over 90 points for the first time and don't forget there are four others fighting like crazy for the other two Champions League positions as well. I'm sure third and fourth places will go to teams with points in the high 70s, and now the relegation battle is open again too.

"Cardiff needed to win their last game and they won it. Watching them you immediately see how physically strong they are and they have shown they can cause teams problems. Fortunately in our situation there is no problem about motivation. Perhaps that could be a problem if you are 10th in the league and have to go to Cardiff, one or two players might think 'Really?', but since I have been here I have never seen that. The boys have always shown outstanding character and awareness of their situation."

Klopp says he and his players have not been wasting any time thinking what they might end up with at the end of the season, frequently comparing the title race to a marathon. "It's a long slog but, when you are near the end, you don't think about all the miles completed, just the couple you still have to do," he says. "That's when you find out what the other competitors have left too. You might be quite happy with your own performance until you see who is on your shoulder."

In terms of the title race and the top two, Liverpool have known who is on their shoulder all along. No one else is going to catch up but Klopp feels the competitiveness of the Premier League is reflected in performances in Europe. "No one can get lazy; you have to be on your toes constantly," he says. "Would I prefer it if we were the only team with this number of points?

"Of course I would but a special season like this is good for the whole community and it is the reason why this country has four teams in the European semi-finals. That is big. That is a really big statement. I like that."

Cardiff City v Liverpool Sky Sports, 4.0

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