Friday, January 22, 2021

Klopp wants players to turn up at Fulham and return to Premier League summit

The German manger has issued a clarion call to his players, urging them to use this game as a platform to return to the top of the table

Leaders Manchester City will be in FA Cup action as they take on Swansea in the quarterfinals on Saturday night, so a win at Craven Cottage will help Liverpool reclaim top spot over Pep Guardiola’s side, helping the Reds gain a two-point lead thanks to an extra game played.

Klopp did, however, warn that relegation-threatened Fulham will be playing without pressure under caretaker manager Scott Parker and should not be taken lightly. “Scott is in now and nobody thinks so desperately about staying in the league, it’s about playing football, getting points and seeing where it leads to,” he told Sky Sports.

“There is no pressure anymore really, that’s what makes them dangerous. Not only that, we had a tough game against them (at Anfield). It was difficult enough that day, we know that and we respect that but it’s still a game for us. So, it has to be an opportunity as well, hopefully we can use it.”

Liverpool will be full of confidence when they arrive in the capital after making the Champions League quarterfinals, where they will play Porto, thanks to a resounding 3-1 win away at Bayern Munich. But that means that any free time, to rest niggles and/or to recoup mentally, will be at a premium as the Merseysiders challenge for glory on two fronts, but Klopp is not bothered by any such notion.

“We are pretty experienced in that, it’s not the first time,” he added. “Pretty much since I came in, apart from one year, we have always been in two competitions until the last match day, we were in the Europa League final, Champions League final and this year we’re still in the competition. It’s a normal thing, we cannot train a lot, that’s how it is. You have to use each minute to rest and relax, for the boys it is very important, for us as coaches it is important as well. Then, in the moment when the rest is over you have to immediately restart, reboot the machine and then it’s onto the next one.”

Liverpool’s hunt for a maiden league title since 1990 will get that much-needed break for a couple of weeks after the Fulham game as the international break sets in, but that does not mean players will come back any fresher, if not injured.

Which means that the former Borussia Dortmund boss will be praying that his full squad will return without troubles, especially those who are front and centre of their title challenges, and also hoping that all are ready for that one final sprint to the finish line.

“The boys should know to inform me immediately after the game (that they are fine), a thumbs up is enough or if it’s not a thumbs up then that’s not so cool but that’s information as well,” he added.

“(A thumbs up to the camera) would be cool but they don’t think about me immediately after the game, that’s OK but I think constantly about them so that’s the difference.”

Author’s take

Klopp would surely love to head into the international break top of the table, but for that, his players will need to show up in London, and leave the 51-year-old safe in the knowledge that his side can build on the pressure created on City with this showing and make that final dash for the Premier League and Champions League titles come May/June.

More crucially, Fulham have been nothing short of miserable at the back, and anything other than three points there would be a massive hit on the confidence and momentum for the Reds, and be considered a big turning point should they end up second-best come season end.

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