Reds 'stiff in their mind'

Klopp urges Liverpool to improve their decision-making in the box lest they turn into draw specialists

Christian Benteke returned as a substitute against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League on Thursday night and is likely to start today.
Christian Benteke returned as a substitute against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League on Thursday night and is likely to start today.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

LONDON • Juergen Klopp's arrival as Liverpool manager has created a frenzy of interest among fans and media alike, but he has not as yet succeeded in shedding his club's growing reputation as draw specialists.

Six of the English Premier League football club's last eight matches have ended in stalemate, a total that rises to seven with the inclusion of last month's unimpressive penalty shoot-out victory over League Two side Carlisle, which had ended 1-1 after 120 minutes.

The concern for the German ahead of his third match in charge, at home to Southampton in the Premier League today, is a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.

While a 0-0 draw at Tottenham last weekend marked a solid start to the former Borussia Dortmund manager's reign, Thursday's 1-1 Europa League draw at home with a 10-man Rubin Kazan side was more of a disappointment.

As Klopp put it: "Some of the players were so stiff in their mind. They think, 'We shoot now?' We have to make better decisions in the box."

Liverpool's performance against their Russian opponents lacked the pace they showed against Tottenham - and the energy for which Klopp's teams have become famous.

The manager has not been helped, though, by a lack of attacking options. Christian Benteke has been absent with a hamstring strain for a month, Roberto Firmino for around the same time with a back injury, while Daniel Sturridge has missed the last two matches with a knee injury suffered in training.

Benteke and Firmino returned as substitutes against Rubin Kazan, and ought to play at least some part today. Sturridge's diagnosis is more of a concern.

The striker now requires another scan on his knee because there is a little fluid collection. "It's not much better at the moment," Klopp said on Friday. "We have to see day by day."

Benteke is likely to start. If not, Divock Origi - yet to score in five appearances for Liverpool - may be asked to lead the attack for a third successive game.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman is concerned the attention surrounding Klopp could prove a distraction as his side try to recover from squandering a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw with Leicester City last weekend.

"I think you have to be focused in your job as a manager to prepare your team for the game and the players to prepare to play at the level we expect of them," he said. "We know Liverpool's a big team, and they will get always more attention than Southampton.

"Managers don't win and managers don't lose. It's the players between the white lines who make decisions and put the quality in. I think it's too much talking about managers. Talk about the teams, because they are more important."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 25, 2015, with the headline 'REDS 'STIFF IN THEIR MIND''. Print Edition | Subscribe