June 12, 2021

Klopp details centre-back plans as Liverpool face having eight players vying for two positions in 2021-22

The Reds have been left short on defensive options at times this season, but that will not be the case when everyone is fit

Jurgen Klopp is looking forward to facing a selection headache at centre-half next season, with Liverpool – who have been ravaged by injuries in that position – potentially having eight options at their disposal in 2020-21.

Further additions in that department are also being mooted, with RB Leipzig star Ibrahima Konate a player said to be in the Reds’ sights ahead of the summer transfer window.

There is a purchase option on Ozan Kabak to consider, with the Turkey international looking to stay on at Anfield as part of a group that also includes Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Ben Davies, Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams and Sepp van den Berg.

What has been said?

Quizzed on how he will keep breakthrough stars such as Phillips, Kabak and Williams happy when everyone is fit, Klopp said: “The boys did incredibly well. 

“Ozan came in and played a super part for us. Unfortunately he is now injured. Nat now for weeks, Rhys in the start mainly in the Champions League because Nat was not on the list. Now they play together, did really well [in the 4-2 win over Manchester United]. I loved what they did. 

“This year created two proper careers, which is nice. Both will have a proper career, which is not written in stone when you are in the academy at any club. They have shown how good they are, and everything will be fine.

“Our new season will start in the summer, and it is not sure yet that the three guys [Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip] will start pre-season with us. The boys will be here, we will need the numbers of centre-halves, work on different things and then step by step hopefully we have the other guys back.

“Team selection is based on performance, on training and on games. The door is always open. I don’t get blind overnight, where I can’t see a good performance anymore. 

“It’s just nice how these boys have contributed. The concentration level they showed [against United] was immense, against this front four of United it is not easy. They were really well supported by our full-backs who led the line really well, a lot of talks. Rhys is a natural talker on the pitch, which helps, so I liked how we organised the last line.”

The bigger picture

For now, Klopp is focused on trying to help Liverpool complete a late surge into the Premier League’s top four – allowing Champions League qualification to be secured.

The Reds boss added on the impact continental football will have on his long-term plans: “It always has an impact, that’s clear. We try to be prepared for pretty much everything, from a scouting point of view, from a coach’s point of view. 

“I’m six years in. In the first year we didn’t really have a proper chance to qualify for the Champions League, but in all the others we qualified, and it was always the main target. That says something, that it’s really important for the club. 

“But this season had so many ups and downs, we should not just act like it’s happened. But it’s important, for the players it’s important, from a joy point of view. They want to play Champions League, and we have to use that. But we will not stop playing if we don’t qualify, and we will not buy eight players if we qualify. That’s not the difference. We have to do serious stuff, and we will see how that works out.”

The German added, with Liverpool not the only superpower to be sweating on a ticket to Europe’s top table: “Some other good teams are not in yet as well. Imagine a Champions League without Juventus! 

“It’s a tricky one. You have to deserve it, and then you are part of it. If not, then you are not.”

Liverpool have three more games to take in this season, with an outing against relegated West Brom on Sunday set to be followed by a trip to Burnley and home date with Crystal Palace.

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