Premier League • England

‘What a game’ – Klopp echoes love for three crucial Liverpool stars as ‘150mph’ man also lauded

Jurgen Klopp, Alisson Becker Newcastle v Liverpool April 2022

Jurgen Klopp lauded the impact his five Liverpool changes had as the Reds claimed a dogged 1-0 Premier League win away at Newcastle.

The manager’s squad depth in this latter stage of the season has aided the Reds’ push for a potential quadruple. What’s more, Klopp has been keen to utilise his options and their latest result took them – perhaps only temporarily – top of the league table.

Midfielder Naby Keita was one such player who came in after Wednesday’s 1-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg win over Villarreal. The Guinea international scored what turned out to be a first-half winner.

James Milner also came into the midfield, with Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho dropped to the bench. Milner too had a solid impact. Furthermore, Joe Gomez and Diogo Jota replaced Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah in the team.

Speaking to BT Sport after the win at St James’ Park, Klopp lauded his changes for helping seal the victory.

“The impact we have from the bench in games is outstanding, but now it’s coming from the bench before a game pretty much,” the manager said. “We expect a lot, but the boys have to deliver.

“It’s outstanding. Joe Gomez, what a game, Naby Keita, what a game, James Milner, what a game.

“That’s mentioning three. Who didn’t start up front [against Villarreal]? Diogo Jota, oh my God, what a game. And then Joel Matip of course as well.”

But, Klopp revealed his delight at continuing to rely on the likes of left-back Andy Robertson to perform.

“The other five or six had to go through again and you see Andy Robertson in minute 93, 150mph sprint going down. That’s absolutely exceptional,” the German said.

“You cannot really defend them properly because it’s long balls. You go there, you have to fight for the ball, foul or no foul, they kick the ball in behind. It’s really difficult to get a feel for the game.

“But that’s not the first time it’s happened, so I really thought we dealt with it exceptionally well. We had to adapt in moments, putting Joel a bit wider and Joe in the side.

“But the most important part was putting Naby in the front [of midfield] with all the things he can pick up there. To win here is special.”

In fact, this was the first time in the Premier League this season that none of Fabinho, Salah or Alexander-Arnold had started for Liverpool.

Klopp delighted with Liverpool win

Jurgen Klopp, Newcastle v Liverpool April 2022

Klopp has been a firm critic of the short turnaround from Wednesday evenings to Saturday afternoons. And while Liverpool were at Anfield on Wednesday, travelling up to Newcastle added a twist.

Not only were the Reds away from home, but St James’ Park had overseen six wins on the bounce.

“We’re in the most difficult circumstances coming here you can have,” Klopp said. “A team in form, obviously, a crowd who was waiting for ages for proper success.

“Now they have it, six home wins on the bounce, so coming here with five changes and building pretty much a new set-up is massive.

“The performance was absolutely outstanding, I loved it. We controlled the game in so many ways, the only plan they had obviously was the long ball to our right side.

“We had some moments where we struggled, but the rest we really controlled.”

Liverpool return to action on Tuesday when they are in Spain to face Villarreal. The Reds are looking to make a third Champions League final appearance of Klopp’s tenure.