We should be grateful really. As Jürgen Klopp and his Reds exited Wembley Stadium last October following a 5-1 hiding at the hands of Tottenham, rock bottom had officially been reached. As it turned out, the brutal exposure of festering issues in the squad led to a period of soul-searching and reassessment that kickstarted an 18-game unbeaten streak. In fact, it could argued that the loss pushed FSG to break the world transfer record on Virgil Van Dijk in an attempt to finally tackle the club’s chronic defensive issues.
Now, with his side hosting the reverse fixture tomorrow, having clawed themselves back into the race for top four, Klopp is determined not to have to learn any similarly harsh lessons again.
“Dele Alli, not the same season as last season, but still the highest quality,” the German manager said in a pre-match interview.
“Christian Eriksen constantly, pffff, Son [Heung-Min] really good, [Moussa) Sissoko] made a step again and back to the player he was at Newcastle, [Victor] Wanyama not in but [Eric] Dier still there.”
Though the likes of Sissoko and Wanyama have yet to make much impact this season due to form and fitness reasons, the 50-year-old has shown that he will not be caught flat-footed this time around.
One player not name-checked was the Lilywhite’s new £25m arrival, Lucas Moura from PSG. The winger, who had been linked to Liverpool numerous times over the years, had understandably fallen behind the likes of Neymar and Julian Draxler in the pecking order. However, new boss Mauricio Pochettino cautioned that the attacker shouldn’t expect to immediately walk into the side:
”For him he’s not going to come here, arrive and say, ‘Oh because he is Lucas Moura and came from Paris St-Germain, he’s going to play because he is Lucas Moura’,” Pochettino warned.
”He needs to show that he is better than our players. That is the fair competition.
“If you are in Paris St Germain and Neymar arrives, if he is better than you then he plays. It’s fair, he’s better.”
Pochettino continued, “If not, then they need to compete. Lucas Moura must compete with Lamela, with Sonny, with Eriksen.”