While much is being made of the playing schedule and COVID concerns at present, Jürgen Klopp also made time to laud the intangibles in his squad.
Leicester may be coming into this match with injury and COVID issues, but the Reds will want to come up against them with the same attitude that saw them pull three goals back against the Foxes in the Carabao Cup before Christmas.
All of us, we all do it for playing in an atmosphere that Anfield can create. It’s so special, it’s not that it makes you nervous, it just pushes you through and it gives you just an extra boost constantly. Actually it helps you fly, for forgetting that it’s really hard what you are doing, that it’s really intense, that your body might give you some signs that it’s done or whatever. It’s absolutely special.
Can the Reds bring the same mental strength without the help of the Anfield crowd?
The return of senior players from injury and COVID absences will certainly help, though the young Reds held their own against Leicester on the 22nd of December.
Klopp had words of praise for his team’s depth, as well:
We are very thankful towards the Academy that they produce these kind of guys.
I think the region we are living in and the area we are living in gives you a specific character, education as well, so they are not only great footballers they are really good boys as well - well educated and all these kind of things, so that’s really positive. How I said, and it’s definitely the case, if the line-up of the first half [against Leicester last week] would have worked out it would have been because of the players, that it didn’t really work out was my fault.
So you have always to be really sensitive about how many you throw in in the same moment. It was for different reasons not really differently possible – we could have played a different line-up in the first half but then we would have had to change for the second half. So, we decided this way around, that we would be slightly more experienced and stronger in the second half. That was clear before the game. We were slightly lucky that we needed the 95th minute to score the equaliser, but that’s the situation you are in. We spoke about how tough the period is and in these periods you have to make decisions because of the things that happen during the week and that’s obviously, for the outside world, not so easy to understand, I can imagine that.
They want to see always the same players, in their mind the best XI, playing constantly but these kind of things are not possible with these different tournaments which we are going through. And I really think the boys did exceptionally well. Especially what I loved about the night: first half, obviously 3-1 down and the atmosphere was obviously not now like great, like being 5-0 up. But it was good, the people were not angry or overly disappointed, they just thought, ‘OK, that’s how it is’. But when we stepped out again you could feel immediately ‘they want to go for it’, so the crowd did as well and they created a really special atmosphere. That’s what I love the most.
Given that Leicester fielded close to their first team and rotated on Boxing Day against Manchester City, Klopp and the team will have some idea how Brendan Rodgers will set up his side.
The Reds will hope to replicate the much-discussed 4-0 win on Boxing Day in 2019. Klopp touched on that memorable game as well, continuing his focus on the mental fortitude of the squad:
This performance two years ago was after we came back from the Club World Cup in Qatar and we had absolutely no idea how we will deal with that intensity because we played there two games in the middle of a very intense period. Travels, different climate obviously, it was much warmer in Qatar than it was here! You come back and we really had no idea how the boys would react, and then this reaction was absolutely special. It was one of the best away performances we produced since I am here. Outstanding.
But we should not now compare [to now] and the situation is clear. I expect Leicester will fight with all they have because that’s how they are, but we want to go there to get a result as well so we will fight as well. That’s it. How good the game will be in the end, we will see. But we are going there to win the game, which is difficult enough.