The Merseyside outfit were deposed by their rivals as title holders this term, but their manager feels they wouldn’t have done so on a fair field
Jurgen Klopp believes that Manchester City would not have reclaimed the Premier League title this season if they had been forced to contend with the same injuries that Liverpool have, as the Reds prepare for a last-stand shot at securing Champions League football.
The Merseyside outfit, English title holders for the first time in three decades last term, have struggled to defend their crown this campaign, and looked at one point at serious risk of missing out on continental football entirely after several key defensive injuries.
Rivals City conversely rallied from a slow start to claim a third title under Pep Guardiola and reach the Champions League final for the first time under the Spaniard – but the German believes that had they been hampered the same way, they would not be sitting atop the summit this time around.
What has been said?
“As good as they are, if City have their three centre-halves out, no [they don’t win the league],” Klopp told his pre-match press conference ahead of a final-day encounter with Crystal Palace.
“Three centre-halves of United, no. For the whole season pretty much too, that is how it is. [But] the thing about a season is you cannot cut off the negative parts from the positive parts and say that we are nearly there.”
Klopp further expanded on how the loss of players such as Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez scuppered Liverpool’s chances to compete for silverware once again, adding: “I said when we lost our centre-halves, all of them pretty much, we broke our leg, but we could still win games.
“It was not always in the most convincing fashion but we were still winning games, scoring.
“Then we had to – and we had to at that time – make midfielders into centre-halves and it broke our spine. Then the whole setup was gone. The young boys were not ready to play at centre-half, the midfielders had to at times [play] at centre-half.
“We lost some rhythm all of a sudden but not all the time. A football team is like an orchestra where plenty of people work together and if you lose one piece, you might be able to still do it, but if you lose two then it becomes difficult.
“It is how I said before, this year, with the amount of injuries we have had, it was not the year to become champions. No chance. For nobody.
“We have fought back a bit, accepted the difficulties and made the best of it. And if we win on Sunday, and if we qualify for the Champions League then we made the best of it. That is it.
The bigger picture
Having seemingly faded from European contention at one point, the collapse of several rivals across the final weeks of the season means that Liverpool find themselves back inside the top four heading into the last game of the campaign.
Though they could theoretically still win and not make the Champions League, that would require Leicester City – coached by former Reds boss Brendan Rodgers – to secure a superior four-goal margin of victory over Tottenham than what Klopp and his side manage against Palace.
An extra wrinkle is that Anfield will play host to the final game of former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson’s time in charge of Palace, with his side surely determined to send him off on a high.