Defence key for Reds: Mignolet

Simon Mignolet smothering the ball in the 2-1 win against Hoffenheim in the first leg of their Champions League play-off encounter on Tuesday. The Reds led 2-0 before the German side pulled one back late. Jurgen Klopp's team have conceded four goals
Simon Mignolet smothering the ball in the 2-1 win against Hoffenheim in the first leg of their Champions League play-off encounter on Tuesday. The Reds led 2-0 before the German side pulled one back late. Jurgen Klopp's team have conceded four goals from their opening two games this season.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

'Keeper says players must initiate a new balance of play, and not just rely on Klopp

LONDON • Liverpool are fully aware they have to improve defensively but they must strike a balance between tightening up at the back and playing their natural attacking game, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has said.

The Belgian is part of a defence that has already come under fire for their display in the 3-3 draw at Watford in last Saturday's Premier League opener, when the Reds conceded a stoppage-time equaliser from a set-piece.

The Merseyside club's vulnerability was on display again in their 2-1 Champions League qualification first-leg win over Hoffenheim on Tuesday, when they conceded late on to give the German side hope for next week's return leg at Anfield.

But while the Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp attracted criticism for the familiar failings that cost his team points at Watford, Mignolet insists it is the players' responsibility to improve.

"We can only play one way and that is forward. We know that we can always score," the 29-year-old told British media.

"We took a lot of steps defensively against Hoffenheim. We were solid, set-pieces we defended well too and that is what we have to learn.

FINDING THE PERFECT BLEND

We are not blind. Our natural game will be attacking and we know we have to fill that in with a real defensive spirit.

'' SIMON MIGNOLET, Liverpool goalkeeper, on the crucial challenge.

"We know what we have to improve after Watford and we have a good dressing room that will deal with that."

While Liverpool's attacking flair got them out of trouble several times last season, Mignolet backed his team-mates to offer a sterner all-round defensive effort this campaign without ruining their potency up front.

"We are not blind," he added.

"Our natural game will be attacking and we know we have to fill that in with a real defensive spirit. We know that is where we have to improve.

"You cannot change a natural footballing side that goes forward, but we know we have to mix that with a good defensive, aggressive spirit to make sure opponents don't score the goals.

"I think we have so much quality inside the team and with what we learnt in the last 10 games of last season we can definitely be successful."

Liverpool return to Premier League action tomorrow when they face Crystal Palace at Anfield in search of their first victory this season.

But Klopp will have injury worries to deal with. Four first-team players are currently sidelined - Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, Nathaniel Clyne and Philippe Coutinho.

Lallana and Sturridge will definitely not be available for the match but Clyne and Coutinho - who is reported to be close to a move to Spanish LaLiga giants Barcelona - could still return in time.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2017, with the headline 'Defence key for Reds: Mignolet'. Print Edition | Subscribe