Belfast Telegraph

Jurgen Klopp challenges Liverpool’s established players to step up

New signings such as Naby Keita and Fabinho have put pressure on players to perform.

Naby Keita excelled on his Liverpool debut (David Davies/PA)
Naby Keita excelled on his Liverpool debut (David Davies/PA)

Jurgen Klopp expects his Liverpool old boys to rise to the challenge as new arrivals continue to raise the bar at Anfield.

Klopp enjoyed a busy summer in the transfer market, signing Alisson Becker, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri to increase pressure on places.

Competition in the midfield areas looks particularly fierce, with Keita and Fabinho costing almost £100million combined and the likes of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum all hoping to retain prominent roles.

Jurgen Klopp saw Naby Keita excel on his Liverpool bow (Mike Egerton/PA)

Keita’s debut in the 4-0 win over West Ham last week left pundits purring but Klopp, speaking ahead of Monday night’s trip to Crystal Palace, sees quality throughout.

“We talk about Naby Keita, that’s good, he’s new. The world is like that. When it’s new it’s fantastic,” he told the club’s official website.

“What you already have (must say) ‘yeah, I’m still here too’. James Milner made big steps in the last three years, that’s the truth.

“I don’t want to judge his career but it feels like it’s the best moment of his career.

“Gini Wijnaldum, no-one speaks about him. He can play the ‘six’ and the ‘eight’ in the way I don’t know many players can. They don’t talk about him.

“We only spoke about these three but Fabinho didn’t play a minute so far and we expect big things from him. Adam Lallana, a long time injured. There’s Xherdan Shaqiri too.”

Milner accepts there may be a rotation policy at Anfield this season (David Davies/PA)

At 32 Milner is the oldest of the current group, but having ended last season strongly he turned in a man-of-the-match showing last weekend.

He understands he may no longer be able to bank on a starting place every time but has no intention of slipping to the sidelines.

“I feel very good and very fit – I want to play every single game,” he told Premier League Productions.

“Obviously that’s not going to happen, I’m sure, and you need to rotate to be successful with the amount of games we have. With the quality that’s in the squad, I’m sure that’s going to happen.

“But as long as I’m performing every time I step onto the field and making it as difficult as possible for the manager to leave me out of the side, I can’t do any more than that.

“The biggest thing for me is that I want to be successful at Liverpool: to win trophies and for me to be a part of that and contribute to that.”

In defence, Joe Gomez will be hoping to continue his partnership with Virgil van Dijk.

The England international will soon come under pressure from the returning Joel Matip, who is expected to make the bench at Selhurst Park, but is finally getting a chance in his preferred central position.

Gomez has been asked to fill in at right-back for most of his Reds career but Ragnar Klavan’s departure for Cagliari indicates Klopp now plans to utilise the 21-year-old through the middle.

Press Association

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