EPL

Klopp was looking to find an excuse for Tottenham draw, says Conte

By Sports Desk May 10, 2022

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was looking "to find an excuse or alibi" when criticising Tottenham's style of play following Saturday's 1-1 draw at Anfield, according to Antonio Conte.

Spurs became just the second side to stop Liverpool winning in their past 15 Premier League games, and the first at Anfield since Brighton and Hove Albion in October.

Luis Diaz's deflected 74th-minute strike cancelled out Son Heung-min's opener, but the draw inflicted a potentially fatal blow to the Reds' title hopes as they now trail leaders Manchester City by three points with three games to go.

Klopp took aim at Spurs' approach after the game, stating he "could not coach" Conte's defensive style as he implored Tottenham to do more with their talented "world-class players".

The German has since clarified that he intended those comments as a "backhanded compliment", and Conte says he can understand why his opposite number was frustrated at the weekend.

"Honestly, for the coach it's not simple or easy after the game. You have to try to keep a cool head. It's not easy or simple sometimes," Conte said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"If you remember this season it always happened to me, when I was disappointed after a bad result, like against Burnley.

"Sometimes we're a bit frustrated, especially when you arrive at the end of the end of the season and you understand a bad game and result can change the target for you.

"I repeat, I have great respect for Jurgen and I know he respects me a lot. This is a good chance for me and all the coaches to learn that during the game you never speak about your opponents.

"It's important to be focused on your team and the moments you can do better. And your own problems.

"Jurgen is intelligent, he was a bit frustrated after the game. At the same time, for us, for a top coach, it's important to be focused on your team, not your opponents. 

"To be focused on your opponents means you want to find an excuse or alibi because it means something in your job was wrong.

Tottenham managed just 35 per cent of possession against Liverpool, who outshot their opponents 22 to three – though the visitors registered as many shots on target (three each).

And while Conte can understand Klopp's frustration at the time, he believes the Reds boss should ultimately be pleased to have come away from the contest with a share of the spoils.

"After the game against Liverpool, the good answer I had like my players was we were disappointed at the end because we had the possibility to win the game," he said.

"We analysed the game the day after, and for sure if there was a team that deserved to win, it was Tottenham not Liverpool. In this game, I think Klopp understood he gained one point not lost two points."

Conte added: "Anyone who knows me, knows very well I want to win every game. I try to transfer this thought to my players. For sure, when I stay in one team, in a club, my aspiration and desire is to fight to win the title.

"To win the league in England is not easy. [Pep] Guardiola said Liverpool won one league in 30 years. It shows it's not simple. Maybe sometimes it's easier to win Champions League or Europa League than the league in England, where you have to face monsters."

While Tottenham were widely praised for their performance against Liverpool, the draw means they have now won just one of their past four matches ahead of hosting Arsenal.

Spurs trail their north London rivals by four points in the race for fourth place, making Thursday's showdown at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium must-win for Spurs.

"We are talking about an important game. Important for many different situations," Conte said. "First we are playing this game for an important target. For a place in the Champions League. This is first, to try to win this game.

"I also know the importance for our fans of this derby, the north London derby. This is the first time they're playing this derby in their stadium with all the fans.

"We have to try to get three points against Arsenal. We are talking about a good team, a really well organised team.

"Mikel Arteta is doing a really good job. He's had the possibility to work and improve his team. In this moment of the season it has to give us a big push."

Conte has won just one of his eight meetings with Arsenal in all competitions (D4 L3), with all of these coming as Chelsea boss between 2016 and 2018.

Of clubs he has faced at least five times in his managerial career, against no side does the Italian have a lower win rate than against the Gunners (12.5 per cent).

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    There is a debate to be had that, even if Real Madrid lose Saturday's Champions League final at Stade de France and Carlo Ancelotti never lifts another trophy again, the Italian will still be able to stake a claim as being remembered as the greatest coach of all time.

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    The glitz and glamour of a Champions League final was far from Klopp's mind in that campaign when in his fourth season in charge of Mainz. The 2004-05 season was just as memorable for the German club's supporters as Liverpool's, though, as they finished 11th in what was their first top-flight campaign.

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    Ancelotti and Klopp are no strangers to one another, of course, with Saturday's showdown set to be their 11th meeting in all competitions. Ancelotti edges the overall record from the previous 10 encounters with four wins to Klopp's three.

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    The Italian has certainly stood the test of time, with his 70 per cent win rate in his second stint with Madrid bettered only by the 75 per cent enjoyed the first time around in the Spanish capital, and now a shot at history – a fourth Champions League and an eighth European trophy – awaits.

    Against a familiar opponent in both Liverpool and Klopp, and in a city where he helped grow Paris Saint-Germain into a force to be reckoned with just over a decade ago, the stage is set for Ancelotti to further strengthen his claim as being the greatest of them all.

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