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Pandemic makes this my toughest season, says Liverpool boss Klopp

By AFP - Oct 24,2020 - Last updated at Oct 26,2020

Liverpool’s German coach Jurgen Klopp gestures during the UEFA Champions League Group D first-leg match against Ajax Amsterdam in Amsterdam on Wednesday (AFP photo by Kenzo Tribouillard)

LONDON — Jurgen Klopp fears this season will be the toughest of his career as Liverpool navigate the unique challenges of defending the Premier League title in the coronavirus age.

Klopp’s side have already seen Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara briefly sidelined by COVID-19 this season, while a host of injuries have also taken their toll.

The delayed start to this season, a result of the previous campaign’s three-month hiatus because of the pandemic, means teams are being stretched to breaking point by the gruelling schedule.

Liverpool boss Klopp has lost Virgil van Dijk to a knee injury that will sideline him for most of the season, with Joel Matip, Naby Keita and Thiago missing the midweek Champions League win over Ajax because of knocks. 

Jordan Henderson was limited to just 45 minutes in that game on medical advice, while Klopp substituted Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mane in the second half against Ajax in order to protect their fitness.

“It will become more challenging. It is already,” Klopp said when asked if this was the most testing season he had faced.

“Life is more challenging than what I ever experienced before and with football it is no different.

“We need help from everybody just to bring the boys through it. We’ve had a lot of discussions with that [medical] department.”

Concerned that his stars will be burned out by the intense fixture list, Klopp called for common sense from the schedule makers.

“I have no problem that we have to play again and I will not moan about anything but, with this schedule thing, we have to make sure that the teams who play midweek don’t play 12.30 on Saturday,” he said.

“If you play Tuesday in the Champions League, for example, then 12:30 Saturday is fine. If you play Wednesday then Saturday 12:30 is ‘Oh my God!’

“We need to have the time to rest. I know people don’t want to hear it and they go back to all the other things they say about professional football players.

“But it’s like Formula One. Everyone can drive a car but it is difficult to drive at 480kph in a pretty close area and then you hope that your brakes work.”


Van Dijk injury


Klopp admits he does not want to know how long he is going to be without Virgil van Dijk, who faces months out of action after injuring his knee.

The Netherlands international suffered cruciate ligament damage after a tackle from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in last week’s Merseyside derby and is awaiting a date for surgery.

Klopp now only has two fit senior centre-backs in Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, with midfielder Fabinho providing impressive cover in the midweek Champions League victory over Ajax.

Liverpool have refused to put a timescale on how long Van Dijk will be out but have not yet ruled him out of the whole season.

“We don’t even want to know it, to be honest. It will take time, that’s clear,” Klopp said on Friday.

“In the end, it’s really like this: all people are different and so we should not limit that by saying ‘for him it was that long, for him it was that long’.”


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