LONDON • Jurgen Klopp has played down the significance of Liverpool's Community Shield clash with Manchester City, saying it would be "completely mad" to deduce how their season will unfold just from the Wembley result this Sunday.
Speaking in Edinburgh yesterday after Sunday's 3-0 pre-season loss to Napoli, and before flying to a training camp in France, the Liverpool manager admitted his team are not yet at their best but emphasised the absence of key first-team players over the past few weeks.
Goalkeeper Alisson and forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino will rejoin the squad for the first time this season in Evian following the conclusion of the Copa America and the Africa Cup of Nations.
Midfielders Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri are also back in training after injury, but Klopp will not have Sadio Mane around until next Monday after the forward featured for Senegal in their run to the final of the Cup of Nations.
"I don't want to find excuses before we play them but we had pre-season without six players," Klopp said. "I don't think we can expect to play our best game on Sunday.
"But to say this must be the statement for us would be completely mad. If the opponents want to analyse us now, they think 'easy job', but we will be a different animal next week (when the English Premier League starts).
Goals conceded by Liverpool in four pre-season friendlies.
"I can't say we've had the best pre-season. I think the worst thing that could have happened is if we had won all the games without the six players; 4-0 or 5-0 against Napoli, then everybody would be flying from last year and into the new season, then getting the problems in the season. That would have been the worst thing."
Liverpool have not tasted victory in their past four friendly matches, losing to Borussia Dortmund (3-2) and Sevilla (2-1) and drawing with Sporting Lisbon (2-2) before their defeat at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Lorenzo Insigne, Arkadiusz Milik and Amin Younes scored for Serie A side Napoli in front of a sell-out crowd of 65,000, with Klopp using 21 players in total.
He made 10 changes during the second half, including a maiden appearance for 16-year-old Harvey Elliott following the announcement of his signing earlier in the day.
The teenage winger became the youngest debutant in Premier League history when he played for Fulham against Wolves in May at the age of 16 years and 30 days.
Klopp also said that he does not expect a "two-horse race" between European champions Liverpool and Premier League winners City in the new season.
"Of course not. It became a two-horse race last year but unfortunately there are too many good clubs in this competition," he said. "We have to play better football and we will play better football."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA