Football: Not pooling up for the final

Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana (left) celebrates with Dejan Lovren after scoring against Villarreal on Thursday. It was his fifth goal in 14 European matches this season. In 22 league games, he has four goals.
Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana (left) celebrates with Dejan Lovren after scoring against Villarreal on Thursday. It was his fifth goal in 14 European matches this season. In 22 league games, he has four goals. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Weakened side set to start against Watford, but Klopp says Europa League not the priority

LONDON • Juergen Klopp insists Liverpool have not given more to their efforts in Europe than in the Premier League even as he prepares to send out another below-strength side against Watford today.

Klopp has guided Liverpool to the Europa League final against holders Sevilla after they saw off Villarreal 3-1 on aggregate. That leaves Klopp's focus on May 18 in Basel, where Liverpool will be looking to win their first European trophy since 2005 and secure a place in the Champions League.

That appears to be Liverpool's only route into Europe's elite club competition for next season as they are eighth in the Premier League, although Klopp denied his players have saved their best for Europe.

The German said: "The Europa League has given us the opportunity to maybe qualify for the Champions League.

"But on the other side, it has cost the opportunity of qualifying for the Champions League in the Premier League because of the number of games, (as well as) going to the final of the League Cup and the injuries and circumstances we've had.

WE ARE ALWAYS GAME

The Europa League has given us the opportunity to maybe qualify for the Champions League. But on the other side, it has cost (us).

JUERGEN KLOPP , the Liverpool manager on how the Europa League has been a double-edged sword.

"These boys always gave their all but sometimes it was not 100 per cent because they couldn't."

Liverpool lost at Swansea last Sunday as Klopp rested a number of key players between the two legs of their semi-final. A similar team sheet appears likely against Watford, who beat Liverpool 3-0 at Vicarage Road in December.

Said Klopp: "We will have a few changes again but we will try to do everything to win this game because we respect this league."

The Reds are without injured striker Divock Origi and captain Jordan Henderson and Klopp suggested they need to return for the final league game against West Bromwich Albion next Sunday to be considered for Sevilla.

His relationship with Daniel Sturridge has also been questioned but the striker denied any issues with his manager.

Sturridge said : "I have never expressed not being happy here. I think it is everyone playing devil's advocate. They see that I have been left out sometimes and think, 'Maybe that means he is unhappy,' but the manager has got a job to do.

"He has got to pick the team that he feels is best on the day."

Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores' future is in doubt despite maintaining the club's Premier League status and guiding them to the FA Cup semi-finals.

A poor run in the league since the turn of the year has brought just four victories and prompted Hornets owner Gino Pozzo to consider instigating the 12-month break clause in Flores' two-year contract.

"I don't want to talk more about my contract," said Flores. "I'm thinking about the match with Liverpool on Sunday. I want to transmit how happy I am at Watford."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

LIVERPOOL V WATFORD

Singtel TV Ch103 & Ch228, 11pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'Not pooling up for the final'. Print Edition | Subscribe