Reds must play own game: Klopp

We have to be consistent, said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
We have to be consistent, said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.PHOTO: AFP

Reds boss says he's focused only on team and not City, praises Shaqiri for fine recent form

LONDON • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists that he is focusing solely on his team and nobody else.

The Reds lead the English Premier League by a point from Manchester City and will get an opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table today when they travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

But the German told a pre-match conference: "We have to be consistent. So many things can happen, why should we think about one opponent like we are the only ones who can stop City?

"It's not like that. Only City can stop City, to be honest. We have to play our own game and try to get as many points as possible, that's all."

The Reds are the only unbeaten side left in the league this season and are flying high on 45 points, one more than champions City, who host Crystal Palace tomorrow.

Wolves are in a good run of form themselves, winning three straight following two defeats and are seventh in the standings on 25 points.

"It's an outstanding project, what they did last year in the Championship," Klopp added of today's opponents, referring to their 99-point title-winning campaign.

"Then they brought in a lot of players again and needed a bit of time, now they're really strong. We have to go there and be at our best."

One Liverpool player who is arguably at his best at the moment is forward Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored two goals in the 3-1 win over Manchester United last weekend.

The Swiss was fortunate to get a move to Anfield in July, having been part of a relegated Stoke side, and it is only now that he is starting to suggest he can be a key figure.

There were questions over whether he had the necessary work ethic for the demanding Klopp.

Answering those questions has taken time, but he is getting there, as the Liverpool boss himself has acknowledged.

"Shaq needs time, it's normal," Klopp said. "He knows that he has so much potential still to improve. But of course he's the guy for decisive moments, and we have to make sure that it stays like this."

Shaqiri, 27, once stated in an interview that he felt his new club "can win everything in the world".

If that statement seemed hubristic, it was at least made from a position of knowledge as to what it takes to be successful - he was part of the Bayern Munich squad that won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2013 and 2014.

That winning nous may prove useful in a Liverpool squad full of talent but short on experience when it comes to winning league titles.

In addition to his goal-scoring threat, he also possesses an ability to unlock defences with short and long-range passing and an appreciation of how to find and exploit space. Those skills, in addition to his ability as a free-kick taker, are likely to be vital in tight games.

Klopp has hinted that there will be opportunities for him across the attacking line, even if it comes at the expense of one of the team's menacing trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

"He is someone who makes a big difference because he can fit in so many positions in our system," the manager said.

Meanwhile, Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren believes his team can match Arsenal's 2003-04 "Invincibles" by going the whole season unbeaten and lifting the title.

"Arsenal did it before so why not?" he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2018, with the headline 'Reds must play own game: Klopp'. Print Edition | Subscribe