Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted he’s not enjoying what is becoming a testing January for his team.
The Reds face Exeter City in the FA Cup on Friday night just three days on from their League Cup semi-final against Stoke City. Speaking to the assembled press on Thursday ahead of the game, the German conceded this run of fixtures is pretty taxing, per James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo:
Klopp: "I enjoy my life but at this moment it's more hard work rather than joy. Between Exeter and Arsenal is nearly a break!"— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) January 7, 2016
Klopp takes his Liverpool team to St James’ Park with some big decisions to make on team selection, especially after a recent spate of injuries.
Although the German admitted he has plenty of respect for the FA Cup, he conceded there will be changes made to the starting XI due to the convoluted calendar, per Pearce and Tony Barrett of the Times:
Klopp on the FA Cup: "The German Cup is also important. The FA Cup a big tournament for sure. I have big respect for it."— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) January 7, 2016
Klopp: "We have to find a solution to current situation. If we go out and you criticise us ok but we have to think about more than 1 game."— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) January 7, 2016
Klopp says he will make changes for Exeter: "I will be there for sure but we have to make decisions. We have to make changes."— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) January 7, 2016
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has claimed that the influx of injury problems for Liverpool is down to the high-tempo football that Klopp demands of his players, per Andy Hunter of the Guardian. But the German was not being drawn on the comments made by the Black Cats boss, per Juliette Ferrington of BBC Sport:
Indeed, the decimation of the playing staff is likely to be a chance for some of the younger players in the squad to make their case for a more regular spot in the side.
Given the fitness issues that have pushed the team to breaking point recently, the Reds have recalled the likes of Sheyi Ojo and Tiago Ilori from their loan spells with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa respectively, per Pearce.
Klopp stated that it’s important to have these bright prospects in the squad and they will be given opportunities to impress:
Klopp: "We have taken back our own players. These are our players - Ojo, Kent & Tiago. The biggest talents should be always around you."— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) January 7, 2016
Klopp: "It will be a big chance for the boys but there is no pressure because they are still young."— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) January 7, 2016
Klopp also provided updates on a few of the stricken players, including Dejan Lovren and Philippe Coutinho, who both limped off during the clash with Stoke in midweek.
It seems as though it’s relatively good news when it comes to the defenders, but Liverpool may be without their Brazilian playmaker for a while yet:
Klopp: "Coutinho is more serious than Dejan. Kolo is only cramp but it won't be possible for him to play the next game."— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) January 7, 2016
Klopp: "Lovren should be back after United. Coutinho will need a few weeks longer."— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) January 7, 2016
Klopp was also asked about whether or not, even with the likes of Ilori and Ojo recalled, he would be seeking to make some signings in the January window.
“The truth is that we have to react on the situation,” he admitted, per Liam Prenderville of the Daily Mirror. "It is difficult enough to find quality players, who are in a difficult situation at their own clubs. We have our eyes open in the transfer market.”
Talk did eventually turn to Friday’s opponents. Exeter are languishing down in 16th in the fourth tier of English football, and Klopp admitted that he doesn’t know too much about Paul Tisdale’s team, aside from their pitch not being in good condition, per Prenderville:
I don’t know too much about them. Their pitch is not in the best way from what I have seen. They are professionals and do have quality, that is obvious.
It’s the same in Germany. Everybody wants a big team. But with Dortmund, in the last few years, we were in the final.
Friday’s game will be a significant test for Liverpool. They’ll be against a team who may be short on quality, but who will backed by a raucous crowd, in a tight stadium and on a heavy pitch. The Reds are likely to field a team that contains a lot of players who haven’t featured too often as of late either, as Klopp notes.
Nevertheless, this is a competition the manager will want to see his team progress in. Although he’s unanimously popular among the Liverpool supporters already, winning a trophy in his first season in charge at Anfield would be a brilliant way to begin his tenure, and Klopp will be aware of the Reds’ proud history when it comes to this storied competition.