Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool players to not allow their impressive winning mindset to waver as they enter what he calls the “slog” part of the season.
Klopp has been impressed that his team have suffered no hangover from their Champions League triumph in May, hitting the ground running this season with four straight victories to stretch their winning run in the Premier League to a club record 13 games.
But as they start a spell of two games a week until January with today’s lunchtime kick-off against Newcastle, he is well aware that after a similar start last season they went into a 12-match run during which they only won five times, drawing three and losing four games in all competitions, including all three away fixtures in their Champions League group.
Maintaining the aggression and intensity they have shown so far is vital, Klopp insists, because there may be no room for error again in the domestic title race.
‘We have to be 100%’
“It was so important to hit the ground running,” he said. “Our football has no easy start, we don’t ease into a season – we have to be aggressive, that is very important and we did that, so that is really good. We’ve had to work hard. It wasn’t about the best football we could play, but about winning the games.
“We have really to be 100 per cent focused – that’s what brought us to the position we were in last year, and as long as we can keep that mindset alive and going, it will be good, it will be fine. Because we have quality and only with this mindset we can really bring them on the pitch.
“It always felt like we were one step behind until we finally won something, that’s true. Now we won something, it’s a big relief.
“The boys were confident last year, and the boys are confident this year. It’s all about playing the way we want to play. If we do that, we will win football games.
“We have had to deal with a few new things, a lot of talk about winning the Champions League but that’s part of it. But apart from that the boys are still the same bunch of good, hungry football players that they were before, and I am happy about that. This is what we have to show against Newcastle – who will fight like crazy.”
‘Salah and Mane are refreshed’
Klopp has made only a few changes so far but is ready to rotate his squad with the heaving schedule ahead – Liverpool fly to Italy on Monday to open their Champions League defence against Napoli, where they lost 1-0 last season in what Klopp described as “our worst performance in the Champions League campaign.”
Roberto Firmino and Fabinho, who were away in the USA with Brazil during the international break, could be given breathers, while Georgino Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk both played twice for the Netherlands as did Jordan Henderson for England.
But there are no concerns for once about Sadio Mane and Mo Salah who were both rested by their countries during the break and have had plenty of time to sort out any lingering differences following Mane’s rant at his team-mate for not passing to him in the win at Burnley.
“They are refreshed and hopefully we can use that,” said Klopp. “In the first four games there was no reason for changes but the players know we are going to need them all now in this most intense period – it’s the slog, absolutely.”
Klopp was impressed by Newcastle’s defensive defiance in their shock win at Tottenham and expects a similar approach from Steve Bruce’s side today. But the Geordies have a dreadful record at Anfield – only three League wins there since 1945. And, of course, Liverpool have not at home for two and half years.
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