EPL

Liverpool standards have slipped but not everything is bad – Klopp

By Sports Desk January 07, 2021

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged Liverpool are enduring a tough run but insisted performances have not been as bad as results suggest.

The defending Premier League champions are top of the table again but have won just two of their past six matches – and two of seven in all competitions.

Rivals Manchester United, who have a game in hand, have moved level on points with the Reds at the summit ahead of the two sides meeting next weekend.

"We were not waiting for [this run of form] and we do not enjoy it, but it's not unlikely that these kinds of things happen," Klopp told a news conference on Thursday.

"I think we only won two of the last six – that's not the standard we expect from ourselves, obviously.

"So, we don't take it easy, but we still see what we can improve, what we have to improve, and don't think everything was bad in the last few weeks.

"The league is too strong, and if you struggle a little bit, immediately the results go the other way because the opponents are fighting with everything they had. You saw that against Southampton [a 1-0 defeat on Monday]."

Liverpool must first focus on the FA Cup, however, with Aston Villa hosting Klopp's men in the third round on Friday.

Last season's run to round five was Liverpool's best under Klopp, with the Anfield outfit eliminated from four of their past six ties against fellow Premier League sides, only beating Everton (in 2018 and 2020) in this time.

The Reds had reached the semi-final in the final season before Klopp's appointment, losing to Villa in the last four to end a six-match winning run against Friday's opponents in the competition.

Despite his underwhelming record in the competition, the manager says Liverpool have always been determined to succeed.

"It's important. It's the FA Cup," he said. "We didn't go far so far in this competition.

"I didn't think we were blessed so far with sensational draws so far and now we go to Aston Villa, which is a tough one as well.

"We always took it very seriously and will do this time as well, but we cannot forget the intensity of the period we are in and all these kinds of things.

"It's important – football games are important. We are professional football players or coaches or managers and the only thing we have to do is to win football games and to try to make sure that we really can do that. It's a very important competition, so we will try to win that."

Liverpool were beaten 7-2 by Villa in the Premier League this term, shipping seven goals in a single match in any competition for the first time since 1963.

Klopp is therefore reluctant to name a weakened team, even with the United game on the horizon.

"We need to find the balance to field a team where we didn't change too much," he said. "We bring in fresh legs again.

"The rhythm [for returning players] is a different issue. That's step by step. We cannot do that in one game. We can't use the FA Cup to give players rhythm – the opponent is just too strong for that.

"After the Aston Villa game, we have eight days between Villa and Man United, so that's a long training week where we can do a lot of stuff in 11-v-11 situations, which will help the players a lot, especially the players who were out for a while. After that, we will be in a different place."

Pressed on specific injuries, Klopp added Naby Keita would return "soon" but not this weekend and Liverpool "will try" to have Joel Matip back for Manchester United, although Diogo Jota is still wearing a brace on a damaged knee.

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