Belfast Telegraph

Klopp hails 'important' win ahead of crunch clash with Manchester City

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praised his side for taming a "wild" game at home to Stoke.

The visitors were the better side early on and went ahead through Jon Walters, but Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino scored before half-time before Giannelli Imbula's own goal and Daniel Sturridge's first in the Premier League this season 56 seconds after coming off the bench wrapped things up.

"Confidence is not a problem of the team at the moment. We know about our quality, but obviously we don't show it all the time," said Klopp.

"The start of the game was really difficult because the plan of Stoke was to press really high, especially with the two strikers.

"We were not patient enough in our passing game, we could have done more.

"It became a wild game and when they had the ball it was immediately in the air.

"Peter Crouch did outstanding work, he was really difficult to defend, and Joe Allen was brilliant with the second balls in the beginning.

"A lot of things we could have done better, but we forced two goals with our quality.

"At 2-1 we could adjust at half-time, we spoke about a few things.

"We scored a wonderful third goal and then Daniel closed the game. That was really important."

The win lifted Liverpool above Manchester City - the visitors to Anfield on New Year's Eve - and back into second place.

City boss Pep Guardiola was at Anfield to witness Liverpool's win and Klopp knows the build-up to Saturday's encounter between the top-four rivals starts now.

"I respect them a lot, but I have not been to City's stadium this season or last to watch games. Maybe they want to watch good football, ha ha," he said.

"We are already looking forward. It's a difficult game for both teams, but an exciting one. The best news for us is that it's at Anfield.

"They're an outstanding side, we are not too bad. It'll be a nice game.

"Whatever I say tonight, we cannot win it tonight. But maybe I could say a few things that make it more difficult for us. It's probably best I shut my mouth."

Stoke boss Mark Hughes felt his side would have deserved more from the game, had it not been for a couple of defensive lapses.

"We haven't defended correctly which is a shame," he said.

"We came here with a good game plan and for the most part we caused them real problems in the first half and they didn't really deal with it well.

"We deservedly took the lead, but the disappointment is we allowed them back into the game just before half-time.

"We made a mistake on the first goal and at that point we needed to see the half out, but we have been passive on the edge of the box and we've allowed another shot.

"We've gone in at 2-1 down feeling a little hard done by.

"We made a couple of individual errors on the next two goals and it is very difficult to come back from that."

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