Reds 'will survive intensive schedule'

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino has been charged with drink driving on Christmas Eve and is set to appear in court on Jan 31.
Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino has been charged with drink driving on Christmas Eve and is set to appear in court on Jan 31.PHOTO: REUTERS

Klopp says busy festive period will define his side's title hopes and he's ready for the fight

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp has said he is "ready to fight" through the busy festive period that he believes can shape Liverpool's challenge for the Premier League title.

Before yesterday's round of matches, Liverpool were only six points behind the leaders Chelsea, who visit Anfield at the end of next month.

The Reds are on a high after a dramatic stoppage-time derby win at Everton on Dec 19.

However, their fitness and resources will be tested by three league games in seven days over the festive period, beginning with a home game against Stoke tonight.

Klopp's team also host Manchester City on New Year's Eve before kicking off at Sunderland on Jan 2.

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  • Liverpool welcome Stoke to Anfield, having not lost to the Potters in their past eight Premier League meetings at home.

The Liverpool manager, who admits it is unlikely that Philippe Coutinho will recover from an ankle ligament injury in time to face City on Saturday, insists his squad can cope with the demands and emerge from the schedule with their Premier League credentials enhanced.

"It is a run that could do that (end a title challenge) but I am the type of guy who thinks you can make it work the other way around," said the German.

"We all have to go through it and in the end the teams who use all the different situations in the best way will be top of the table.

"We are better equipped than last year but then we were only together three months. Of course we are in another situation now and we know each other much better. We have a big bunch of wonderful experiences together and that makes us all stronger.

"You have to play Stoke, City and Sunderland and they have all their things what they want to reach. It is difficult but not impossible and as long as it is not impossible I am ready to fight."

Klopp, who had his squad in for training on Christmas Day despite the extra 24 hours to prepare for the visit of Stoke, could stick with an unchanged starting line-up as Liverpool look to build on successive wins at Middlesbrough and Everton.

But the manager was put in a spot of bother yesterday after it emerged that key player Roberto Firmino was charged with drink driving after being arrested in the early hours of Christmas Eve in Liverpool's city centre.

The 25-year-old Brazilian, who has thrived under Klopp this season, is scheduled to appear at Liverpool City Magistrates Court on Jan 31, the same day that Liverpool play title rivals Chelsea at Anfield.

With fellow forwards Coutinho injured and Sadio Mane set to play in the Africa Cup of Nations, Firmino's presence up front is vital for Liverpool.

Mid-table Stoke head to Merseyside having failed to win in three matches, including a 2-2 draw at home to Leicester in their last outing when they squandered a two-goal lead.

The Potters could not have asked for a tougher festive period, with this game being followed by a trip to Chelsea on New Year's Eve but Mark Hughes is backing his team to spring a surprise.

"We are under no illusions as to how good they both are and how difficult the matches will be for us, but we have to go into the games with real belief," he said.

"Not many people are thinking we have a chance of gaining positive results but that certainly isn't the case within our camp."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LIVERPOOL V STOKE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Reds 'will survive intensive schedule''. Print Edition | Subscribe