LONDON, August 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Jurgen Klopp has warned Liverpool to beware of the threat posed by Christian Benteke when the title challengers face their former striker at Crystal Palace Monday.
Klopp’s side underlined their credentials as serious contenders for the Premier League crown with an eye-catching 4-0 demolition of West Ham last weekend.
It was the perfect way for Liverpool to kick off their bid to dethrone champions Manchester City following Klopp’s £160 million close-season spending spree.
But Liverpool, who last won the English title in 1990, will have to surmount a wide variety of obstacles before they can finally get their hands on the trophy.
And Reds boss Klopp believes an unheralded but potentially dangerous opponent lies in wait at Selhurst Park.
Palace have a habit of unsettling supposed superior teams who visit south London and the muscular presence of Belgian striker Benteke is part of that threat.
Klopp inherited Benteke when he arrived at Anfield in 2015 but struggled to find a place for the big striker and allowed him to join Palace after just a year on Merseyside.
The 27-year-old led the Palace attack in their 2-0 win at Fulham on the opening day of the season, sparking memories for Klopp of the day his brace beat Liverpool at Anfield in April 2017.
“Everybody who thinks about writing Benteke off makes a big mistake, because his obvious skills are always there,” Klopp said.
“Even if he didn’t score too often last season, he always has opportunities.
“It’s a big challenge to defend set-pieces when Christian is around. He will score goals this season, there’s no doubt about that.”
Benteke isn’t the only danger in the Palace forward line and Eagles manager Roy Hodgson believes he can build the team’s future around the “talismanic” Wilfried Zaha.
Ivory Coast international Zaha signed a new five-year contract with Palace this week after speculation he might join Chelsea or Tottenham.
Zaha scored as Palace beat Fulham at Craven Cottage and Hodgson has challenged his 25-year-old star to become of the best in world.
“We think very highly of him both as a person and a player, and he’s got even a talismanic quality, being from this part of the world and starting his career at Crystal Palace,” Hodgson said.
Admitting his coaching team had fretted around Zaha signing new terms in the off-season, Hodgson said he has challenged the former Manchester United flop to step up another level this year.
“He’s very, very good; all players have got qualities of course, and there aren’t many players who can literally do every single thing,” Hodgson said.
“But he scores top marks in so many aspects of the game, and when it comes to dribbling and manipulating the ball and going past opponents, I put him up there with the very best.
“He did a lot for us last season with his goals and his assists and the way he played and we’ve tried to make it clear to him we need a lot more of that going forward.”
MADRID, August 15, 2018 (News Wires) - Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos criticised Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp's poor record in finals in the latest instalment of their long-running war of words on Tuesday.
The German recently blasted Ramos for injuring Mohamed Salah and colliding with goalkeeper Loris Karius during Liverpool's 3-1 Champions League final defeat by Real in May.
Salah suffered shoulder ligament damage and left the pitch in tears with huge questions hanging over his participation at the World Cup in Russia.
It later emerged that Karius had suffered a concussion, and following the incident he made couple of blunders to concede two goals.
"It's not the first final (Klopp) has lost, he should stick to his own business," Ramos told reporters ahead of the UEFA Super Cup showdown with Europa League winners Atletico Madrid.
"Some of us have been operating at a very high level for many years, I'm not sure he can say the same."
Klopp, who described Ramos as "ruthless and brutal" has failed to win six of seven finals during his coaching career.
Ramos, meanwhile, has won four Champions Leagues, La Liga four times, the 2010 World Cup and two European Championship titles with Spain.
LONDON, August 14, 2018 (News Wires) - New Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson’s commanding presence and skill on the ball is boosting the defensive players’ confidence, Dutch centre-back Virgil van Dijk has said.
Brazil international Alisson made his competitive debut in Liverpool’s 4-0 win over West Ham United in the Premier League on Sunday and the 25-year-old impressed as he began his spell in English football with a clean sheet.
“We speak a lot. He’s very vocal and that helps. It helps me and everyone in the backline. I think his presence is very good as well,” Van Dijk told British media.
“He has a lot of qualities on the ball that help us playing. We’ve worked on it the whole pre-season and we’ll keep building and practising. There’s still a lot to do.
“West Ham was just one game. We can do a lot better in certain moments and it’s just the start. We’re trying to build something.”
Liverpool’s defensive solidity since Van Dijk’s arrival in January has seen them keep clean sheets in their last six home league matches and the club have not conceded a league goal at Anfield since February.
LONDON, August 12, 2018 (News Wires) - Last season's Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah was on target again as Liverpool kicked off their season in style with an easy win at home to West Ham United.
The Egyptian gave Juergen Klopp's side the lead after 19 minutes from
Andy Robertson's precise low cross.
West Ham's new manager Manuel Pellegrini gave debuts to five of their 10
close-season signings, but his revamped team rarely threatened Liverpool's
expensive new Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson.
Poor defending cost them a second goal just before the interval, to Sadio
Mane, who added a third after 53 minutes from an offside position.
Substitute Daniel Sturridge made it four just seconds after coming on.
Liverpool haven't been crowned champions of England since 1989/90 and
finished 25 points behind City last season.
But after reaching the Champions League final last season and spending
more than anyone else in the Premier League in the off-season, there is
palpable belief that near three-decade wait can come to an end in May.
Midfielder Naby Keita and Alisson were the only debutants to start from a
reported £170 million summer splurge in the transfer market as Fabinho
and Xherdan Shaqiri had to make do with a place on the bench.
However, there was little tinkering for Klopp to do up front after Salah,
Mane and Roberto Firmino combined for 91 goals last season, and they
again provided the firepower to outclass a sorry West Ham despite their
own near £100 million outlay on nine new players.
Salah and Mane's pain at international level was Liverpool's gain as early
exits at the World Cup with Egypt and Senegal meant they could join the
club's pre-season tour of the United States, unlike a host of Premier League
stars who returned to training just last week after their exertions in Russia.
A revelation in his first season at Anfield with 44 goals in all competitions,
Salah is now a marked man.
Yet, he was given the simplest of tasks to tap home the opener into an
empty net on 19 minutes from Andy Robertson's pinpoint cross after he
was freed down the left by the impressive Keita.
Salah should have had more as he was well picked out by a bursting run by
Firmino only to place his shot too close to Lukasz Fabianski, who also
made a brilliant save to turn Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick behind.
Fabianski was by far the busier 'keeper with Alisson making just one
comfortable save and impressing far more with his feet to launch a series of
LIVERPOOL, August 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Jurgen Klopp is trying to keep a lid on expectations, but ahead of the new Premier League season, Anfield is brimming with excitement that Liverpool could finally end a near three decade wait to be crowned champions of England.
Often outgunned by the riches of fierce rivals Manchester United and the oil-backed wealth of Chelsea and Manchester City in recent times, this summer Liverpool were the Premier League’s biggest spenders in a reported £170 million splurge.
“We had to create a squad which is strong enough and wide enough to cope with the Premier League and to be as successful as possible,” said Klopp.
The club’s business was also done early to give Brazil’s number one Alisson Becker and midfielders Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri time to bed in before their campaign kicks off at home to West Ham tomorrow.
Just as importantly, unlike Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho who were lured away from Anfield to Barcelona in recent years, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino signed new contracts as a statement of intent of what is to come for Klopp’s Liverpool.
Despite not winning a trophy since the charismatic German coach took charge in 2015, the Reds are also building from position of strength.
A run to the Champions League final in May before losing out to Real Madrid showed both how far Liverpool had come in his time in charge, but also where there was room for improvement.
Two monumental errors by Loris Karius forced the club to bite the bullet and spend big for a top class goalkeeper.
The €72.5 million fee paid for Alisson was a world record for a ‘keeper, but just a few weeks on seems reasonable compared to the €80 million Chelsea splashed out for the far more inexperienced Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao.
Madrid also outclassed Liverpool in midfield in Kiev, as they have done to most sides in winning three straight Champions League titles thanks to the talent of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
But the additions of Fabinho and Keita significantly improve Liverpool’s quality in that area of the field and crucially fit perfectly into Klopp’s high pressing system.
Despite thrashing Manchester City 5-1 over two legs in the Champions League quarter-finals, Klopp’s men finished 25 points adrift of the record-breaking Premier League champions last season.
“The champions are Manchester City; they didn’t lose any player and they brought in (Riyad) Mahrez, so that doesn’t make them weaker,” warned Klopp, insisting Liverpool are still the underdogs.
“We are still Rocky Balboa and not Ivan Drago. We are the ones who have to do more and fight more — that must be our attitude.”
But with such a tight turnaround with less than a month between the World Cup final and Premier League kick-off, Klopp’s preparations have also been far less affected than other sides in England’s top six.
Salah and Sadio Mane were able to join the club’s pre-season tour in the United States are being knocked out in the group stages in Russia with Egypt and Senegal, while Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Keita, Fabinho and James Milner had the summer off.
“Liverpool have waited 28 years. Not just for the league title, but for a pre-season where so many pundits and supporters believe they can win it,” wrote former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher in The Telegraph.
Even the legendary Pele jumped on the Liverpool bandwagon yesterday in support of countrymen Alisson and Firmino.
“I think it’s the year of Liverpool, Alisson and Firmino!” tweeted the Brazilian great.
Liverpool have spent nearly three years surpassing expectations under Klopp. Now the pressure is on to meet them.
LONDON, August 10, 2018 (News Wires) - Liverpool's reinforced squad must build on their ruthless form from last season if they are to challenge defending Premier League champions Manchester City for the title, manager Juergen Klopp said on Friday.
Klopp has made four big money signings, adding goalkeeper Alisson, midfielders Naby Keita and Fabinho and winger Xherdan Shaqiri, giving supporters genuine optimism ahead of the new campaign.
But the German insists they are still underdogs in the battle for the league crown, saying: "We are still Rocky Balboa and not Ivan Drago.
"We have to be more consistent. More clinical. More aggressive in the right moments. We need to improve everything.
"We have to be in a championship mode. We jump into the water and we dive until we don't have oxygen anymore. That's the plan. A lot of people think because of the transfer window we will (challenge more) - but that's not how it is."
Klopp accepts the pressure ahead of Sunday's opening match against a much-changed West Ham United but said his team will also need a change in luck if they are to catch last year's runaway champions City.
"Someone gave me the unluckiest team article," Klopp added, referring to a study released this week that said Liverpool dropped the most points last season, 12, in matches affected by wrongly disallowed goals or incorrect decisions.
"You ask me about the gap with City. We had three points from City and they had three points from us. It's about losing them in other games."
Klopp said there could be further departures from Anfield, with the transfer window still open for major leagues in Spain, France, Italy and Germany.
"The window is only one way closed so we cannot buy any more but we can sell not in Premier League - but it is clear things will happen," he said.