Belfast Telegraph

Pool must develop a mean streak at back, says Klopp


Tightening up: Jurgen Klopp wants to stop conceding, but injured goalkeeper Alisson is on way back
Tightening up: Jurgen Klopp wants to stop conceding, but injured goalkeeper Alisson is on way back

By Carl Markham

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits they have to improve the defensive side of their game but says a lack of clean sheets is not down to a more attacking approach.

In five matches this season they have scored 15 goals and conceded five in the Premier League, with just one clean sheet - at Burnley last month - in eight matches in all competitions this season.

At the same stage last season the Reds had scored 11 and conceded just two, having opened the league campaign with three successive clean sheets.

They are, however, better off as they currently have a five-point lead, the biggest the Premier League has seen at this early point of the season, having been second to Manchester City on goal difference this time last year.

What cost them the title in their neck-and-neck race with Pep Guardiola's side was the number of draws (seven compared to City's two) but Klopp insists they have not sought to rectify that this time around with a more adventurous approach.

"There is no difference. We didn't focus more on defensive or offensive things," he said.

"The goals have been strange. There would have been a second clean sheet at Southampton if we didn't concede that goal (down to an error by second-choice goalkeeper Adrian). That would have been a clean sheet, there could have been clean sheets in other games.

"It's not exactly as we want but we don't collect clean sheets, we want to win football games.

"It is still early in the season, we have to improve and develop. But it's not because we have a different approach to last year."

Part of the reason for a lack of clean sheets could be attributed to the absence of Alisson.

The first-choice goalkeeper won the golden glove last season for 21 clean sheets but the Brazil international has been absent since sustaining a calf injury 39 minutes into their opening league match.

But Klopp has had some encouraging news on his fitness and that of midfielder Naby Keita, who has been sidelined by a groin problem since the European Super Cup victory over tomorrow's opponents Chelsea on August 14.

"Alisson is making big progress. A proper session yesterday with (goalkeeping coach) John Achterberg," said the Reds boss.

"He's not in team training yet, and we take it day by day. We will see. It's too early to say. The medical department will tell me."

On Keita, he added: "Naby is back training with the team. Today is his first time with the team."

However, striker Divock Origi is unlikely to feature at Stamford Bridge after an ankle injury in last week's win over Newcastle.

"Div, we have to see day by day, that's how it was from the first day - how can he deal with the pain and stuff like that," added the Liverpool boss.

"It is pretty early, so I don't know exactly what the medical department will tell me (today) about that case. I think it's unlikely, but why should I rule him out? But it's unlikely."

Injuries to Manchester City defenders John Stones and Aymeric Laporte has left them with just one fit centre-back in Nicolas Otamendi and potentially handed a crucial advantage to Liverpool early in the campaign.

Klopp was asked whether worries about an injury to Virgil van Dijk, Uefa Player of the Year and the Reds' key defensive figure, kept him awake at night.

"Not yet. That is the reason why we have four centre-halves," said Klopp.

"It is not easy for the in-the-moment No.4 not playing but if something happens, like last year a couple of things happened and then you end up with one centre-half and a defensive midfielder like against Bayern at home with Fabinho and Joel (Matip) as centre-halves.

"That can happen, it was unlucky, but you cannot think about injuries before you have an injury. We all need luck to be really successful."

Chelsea vs Liverpool

Premier League

Stamford Bridge, Tomorrow, 4.30pm

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