EPL

Klopp acknowledges Newcastle 'made life hard' for Liverpool

By Sports Desk December 16, 2021

Jurgen Klopp praised Newcastle United for making "life hard" for Liverpool in a 3-1 win for the Reds, while explaining his decision to remove Mohamed Salah in the second half.

Jonjo Shelvey silenced the Anfield crowd on Thursday with his opener, but Diogo Jota equalised soon after – Liverpool finding the net for a club-record 32nd game across all competitions.

Salah then put Klopp's side into the ascendancy, matching Jamie Vardy's Premier League record of scoring or assisting in 15 consecutive games, before Trent Alexander-Arnold confirmed victory with a ferocious strike.

With the win, the Reds became the first side to 2,000 victories in the English top flight, while they moved within a point of leaders Manchester City and three points clear of third-placed Chelsea.

It could have been very different after Shelvey's opener, though, even if Klopp expected a tough task.

"We used in preparations more Bournemouth than Newcastle for analysis," Klopp told BT Sport. "We won 2-1 last time Eddie Howe was here with Bournemouth after they scored another goal. We expected similar things. They made life hard for us.

"Being 1-0 down changed the mood a bit. We were rushing in moments. We scored really good goals. I'm really pleased in this period of the year when you just have to get through games."

On Salah's recent form and the decision to remove the Egypt international with 16 minutes of normal time remaining, he added: "That's quite amazing. His assists are as important [as the goals]. 

"Today was right to take him off a bit earlier. We play in three days again."

Klopp also revealed he had not anticipated rivals Everton's welcome draw at Chelsea, while he praised Liverpool's fighting spirit to come from behind and win.

"I didn't expect Chelsea would drop points, it is pretty rare. I don't know five or six players of the Everton line up, so to get a point at Chelsea is massive," Klopp told BBC's Match of the Day.

"You have to react [to the goal]. I am really pleased, but I expect it as well; it is not that we celebrate we came back. We worked hard, not only brilliant football – of course, some good football – we were very dominant, it is not so easy to play against such a deep block.

"We have already a few games in our legs, I love how the boys dug in really deep and got a very deserved result."

Liverpool travel to face Tottenham on Sunday having been without Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones against Newcastle after the trio returned suspected positive coronavirus tests.

COVID-19 has prompted the postponement of several other fixtures, meaning Klopp is uncertain of what the future holds.

"It's a really tricky situation," he said. "Nobody knows exactly how we'll be tomorrow.

"We will go to the training centre until people tell us otherwise. I've never had three players on matchday [have to pull out]. 

"The most important thing is because the boys are vaccinated they will not feel it really. That's good. We have to wait for them.

"If we should stop the league, I have no real answer for it. If you stop it for two weeks and we come back, I really don't know what to do. I saw the Everton line-up today, I don't know half of the players."

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    Eddie Howe is confident Newcastle’s topsy-turvy season can still end on a high note as he targets FA Cup glory.

    The Magpies slipped to ninth place in the Premier League table after a dismal 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday evening, and have looked some way off the pace they set last season, when they roared to a top-four finish.

    But as they head into Tuesday night’s FA Cup fifth-round trip to Sky Bet Championship Blackburn, head coach Howe is convinced a campaign which has featured a famous Champions League victory over Paris St Germain, but also an untimely exit from Europe, could still have a happy ending.

    He said: “We are still in the throes of deciding where this season ends up. Nothing is decided for or against us.

    “I definitely want to squash that feeling that we are feeling sorry for ourselves because that has negative connotations. We need the players excited and ambitious, thinking brightly about the future.

    “This season can still be very special for us, but we have to make it happen.”

    Howe has been able to plead mitigating circumstances for much of what has happened so far this season with injuries having eaten significantly into his resources, but he was making no excuses for the horror show at the Emirates Stadium.

    Instead, he refocused on progression in the FA Cup and the task of securing a European berth for the second successive season, even if the Europa League or Europa Conference League now look more realistic options.

    He said: “Of course, qualifying for the Champions League was unbelievable last year. But if you can’t make that again, then we have to look for the next best alternative.

    “That’s what we’re trying to do, and for me, they’re (the Europa League and Conference League) realistic objectives and we’ll give everything we can to achieve it.”

    It is perhaps no coincidence that the Magpies’ difficulties have intensified since the loss of powerhouse midfielder Joelinton. He suffered a thigh tendon injury in the FA Cup third-round victory at Sunderland which is likely to sideline him for much of the remainder of the campaign.

    Howe said: “We’ve missed Joe’s qualities, especially physically, his robustness, his abilities in duels, set-plays for and against.

    “We’re very lucky to have a midfielder that’s as big as he is and as competitive as he is and whenever you lose those qualities, you notice when they’re not there.

    “He’s a very unusual midfielder, really, a prototype. You don’t get many like him and it’s certainly been missed, what he can bring.”

    The 27-year-old Brazilian has played a key role in the club’s resurgence since emerging from a miserable start to his career on Tyneside, and his future remains uncertain with a contract wrangle – his current deal expires next year – unresolved.

    Howe said: “That’s always been in my mind as an absolute priority, to try to get him to stay at the club long-term. I see that as hugely important.”

  • England boss Sarina Wiegman backs Fran Kirby to respond to latest fitness issue England boss Sarina Wiegman backs Fran Kirby to respond to latest fitness issue

    England boss Sarina Wiegman is “positive” Fran Kirby will bounce back from her latest fitness issue and brushed aside suggestions that the midfielder’s lack of playing time is becoming a concern.

    Kirby pulled up in the warm-up before the Lionesses’ 7-2 friendly victory over Austria on Friday night, and on Sunday the Football Association confirmed she had withdrawn from the squad for further assessment on a “minor knee injury.”

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    Kirby has returned to Chelsea, with what Wiegman says was “some irritation on her knee. It’s a minor injury, but we didn’t want to take any risk, so she’s being assessed at the club and we don’t expect it to be a bad injury.”

    The 30-year-old started every game of England’s Euro 2022-winning run, scoring twice and picking up three assists, but in the months prior to selection had suffered from a debilitating fatigue-related illness, later admitting in a book by Millie Farrow, released last year, that she would be forced to rethink her playing career if it happened again.

    She told the former Chelsea striker: “I think the competitiveness in me is ‘try one more time’ but I will get to the stage where I think ‘I can’t keep doing this.”

    Kirby also sat out a long spell during the 2019-20 season with pericarditis, a heart condition, and during last February’s Conti Cup final re-aggravated a knee issue that had plagued her since she was a pre-teen.

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    After missing England’s World Cup campaign last summer, which saw them finish runners-up, Kirby made an emotional return to international action in October, coming on as a substitute in the Lionesses’ 1-0 Nations League victory over Belgium.

    She has appeared in 14 Women’s Super League matches and five Champions League contests this season, scoring three goals and picking up two assists across all competitions, though her starts have been limited.

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    On Friday, 20-year-old Grace Clinton emphatically introduced herself to the senior squad with a goal on her debut in the first of England’s two international friendlies in Spain, with Italy up next on Tuesday night.

    Midfielder Keira Walsh welcomes the challenge, saying: “That’s the hope, isn’t it, that they do come in and take our place? Four of the under-23s trained with us yesterday, and the idea is that they’ll be coming in and taking our shirts off us.

    “We don’t want to be predictable in the way we play, we don’t want to be predictable in who’s playing. I think that’s something that’s really special about this England team. We have such good squad depth that anybody can play at any time.”

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    England boss Sarina Wiegman is “positive” Fran Kirby will bounce back from her latest fitness issue and brushed aside suggestions that the midfielder’s lack of playing time is becoming a concern.

    Kirby pulled up in the warm-up before the Lionesses’ 7-2 friendly victory over Austria on Friday night, and on Sunday the Football Association confirmed she had withdrawn from the squad for further assessment on a “minor knee injury.”

    It is yet another blow for Kirby, who missed out on the Lionesses’ World Cup campaign last summer after undergoing knee surgery for a long-standing issue, and in October pulled on an England shirt for the first time in over a year.

    Asked about Kirby’s injury history and limited starts for her club, Wiegman said: “I don’t think at Chelsea it always has been the reason that she’s injured or not available or not starting.

    “There’s also technical, tactical decisions. She was available for us, she would start and she wasn’t available to, which is a disappointment, and moving forward we will see how things develop. I hope she’ll be on the pitch quick, and I’m positive about that.”

    Kirby has returned to Chelsea, with what Wiegman says was “some irritation on her knee. It’s a minor injury, but we didn’t want to take any risk, so she’s being assessed at the club and we don’t expect it to be a bad injury.”

    The 30-year-old started every game of England’s Euro 2022-winning run, scoring twice and picking up three assists, but in the months prior to selection had suffered from a debilitating fatigue-related illness, later admitting in a book by Millie Farrow, released last year, that she would be forced to rethink her playing career if it happened again.

    She told the former Chelsea striker: “I think the competitiveness in me is ‘try one more time’ but I will get to the stage where I think ‘I can’t keep doing this.”

    Kirby also sat out a long spell during the 2019-20 season with pericarditis, a heart condition, and during last February’s Conti Cup final re-aggravated a knee issue that had plagued her since she was a pre-teen.

    Though she had hoped to avoid surgery, doctors ultimately determined it would be the best way forward to treat what they diagnosed as tripartite patella, in which two bone fragments were attached by tissue, but not joined to her patella bone.

    After missing England’s World Cup campaign last summer, which saw them finish runners-up, Kirby made an emotional return to international action in October, coming on as a substitute in the Lionesses’ 1-0 Nations League victory over Belgium.

    She has appeared in 14 Women’s Super League matches and five Champions League contests this season, scoring three goals and picking up two assists across all competitions, though her starts have been limited.

    It does not help Kirby’s case that competition for playing time at both club and country is increasingly cut-throat.

    On Friday, 20-year-old Grace Clinton emphatically introduced herself to the senior squad with a goal on her debut in the first of England’s two international friendlies in Spain, with Italy up next on Tuesday night.

    Midfielder Keira Walsh welcomes the challenge, saying: “That’s the hope, isn’t it, that they do come in and take our place? Four of the under-23s trained with us yesterday, and the idea is that they’ll be coming in and taking our shirts off us.

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