Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has responded to former Manchester United defender Gary Neville for his comments that Liverpool should “kick” the Champions League “into touch” in order to focus on winning the Premier League.
Neville made the comments in an interview with the Times, and Klopp has responded.
“How should that work? What do we do? We don’t play Champions League or what?” Klopp said during a news conference. “Gary should come over and tell me exactly how that would work. How do you prepare a game and not focus on it? You bring your kids in the Champions League? That would be funny!
“I don’t know what he means with that, to be honest” Klopp continued. “We have to play football. A lot of people watch our games when we play Champions League and that’s our job that we do the best we can do in all these games.
“That’s what we try. I don’t know exactly what it means but to focus on one competition can only be if maybe you are already out of the competition nearly.
“If it’s late in the season that you see you have a chance to do that or do this and all that stuff.
“Last year, for example, we had no chance to focus on one competition because we had to qualify for the Champions League and I don’t think that even Gary Neville would have said: ‘Quarterfinals of the Champions League, let City win.’
“It doesn’t work like this. I don’t want to be too critical because I don’t know exactly how he said it but sitting in an office and talking about football is completely different to doing the job, to be honest. But it’s an opinion.”
Liverpool’s next task is to face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Saturday, and Klopp is emphasizing squad rotation as Liverpool prepares for 7 matches over 23 days.
“Of course we have to [rotate]. We have seen that we can do it,” Klopp said. “We have to think about the game tomorrow, then we see who we can choose for the next game.
“You always try to have your best game, but it is clear with the number of games. We get so much information, we can see how the players react in different situations. We have to do that, to rotate.
“The first four weeks we had the same lineup and we changed one position, but it was to get a good start to create a base.
“We used the players who had the longest preseason, apart from Bobby [Roberto Firmino] who came pretty late. The others all had at least three weeks. They were the most stable players in the squad.
“Today we train, then we make a lineup for tomorrow. Mauricio [Pochettino] has the same issues, we all have to work with what we’ve got.”
Liverpool’s loss to Spurs last season ended up rallying the team, and they took that defeat and turned it around for an 18 match run of victories.
“It was a kind of a wake-up call, to be honest,” Klopp said. “But it was more a wake-up for the players, that we cannot do it like this.
“After that we had pretty good results and I don’t think we conceded a lot of goals. Yes, we learned, the experience was that one game can be completely different to another.
“But on the other side we still knew we had a good team. It was the moment where we could show that we are really convinced about what we are doing, we just had to do it more often and in a better way.”