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Swansea City paid tribute to the families of the 96 after Tuesday’s Hillsborough inquest verdict, laying a wreath at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
Captains Martin Skrtel and Ashley Williams pay tribute to victims of the Hillsborough disaster. #SWALIV https://t.co/80OE0gBATq
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) 1 May 2016
Welcoming Liverpool to south Wales for the Reds’ first outing on home soil since Tuesday’s justice verdict, the Swans honoured those who lost their lives at Hillsborough.
Ahead of Sunday afternoon’s 3-1 defeat, Liverpool captain Martin Skrtel joined his Swansea counterpart, Ashley Williams, to lay a ’96’ wreath in front of the travelling Kop.
The Swans also paid tribute in their matchday programme, labelling Tuesday’s verdict as “the greatest victory in the history of the greatest game.”
Writing in his programme notes, Williams said that “justice for the 96 has finally been done.”
“It’s been an emotional week, I am sure, for anyone connected with the city of Liverpool following the conclusion of the Hillsborough inquests,” Williams wrote.
“I was delighted to see the verdict last week.
“Justice for the 96 has finally been done, and I am pleased that the families of the victims have been vindicated for their 27-year battle for the truth.”
To mark the Hillsborough families’ 27-year fight for justice, the Liberty Stadium erupted with applause on the 27th minute on Sunday afternoon.
With the travelling Kop providing a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the two sides served up a fitting tribute to the 96.
This was just one of many tributes across Europe following Tuesday’s verdict, flowing from Newcastle to St. Etienne, to remember the victims of the tragedy, and to celebrate justice.
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With Joe Allen linked with a move to rejoin Swansea City this summer, Jurgen Klopp has reaffirmed his stance on the midfielder’s Liverpool future.
Allen was subject of a failed loan bid from the south Wales side in January, with Klopp rejecting the possibility offhand, with the 26-year-old deemed a crucial part of his first-team squad.
But with Allen continuing to play a peripheral role under the German this season, Swansea were once again reported to be preparing a bid to sign their academy product.
Reports suggested that Liverpool would demand “upwards of £10 million” for a player with just one year left on his contract.
This may prove a hardline stance by the club, with Klopp telling reporters after Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to the Swans on Sunday afternoon that “everything is fine” regarding Allen’s future.
“We will talk about Joe Allen’s future, 100 percent, but not at a press conference in Swansea,” he said.
“But I spoke to him yesterday, and everything is fine.
“He’s in good shape, very important player for us and everything is fine.”
Allen was left out Klopp’s squad for the trip to the Liberty Stadium, with the Wales international likely to start Thursday night’s Europa League semi-final second leg at home to Villarreal.
With Jordan Henderson and Emre Can out injured, Allen’s value to Liverpool has been underlined.
His technical ability and tactical intelligence have allowed him to settle in quickly within Klopp’s midfield.
Though 19-year-old Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic will arrive this summer, and Henderson, Can and James Milner are set to continue their key roles in Klopp’s squad next season, the German would be wise to hold on to a player like Allen.
As Sunday’s defeat proved, with youngsters Pedro Chirivella and Kevin Stewart forming a flimsy midfield pair, Klopp requires a plethora squad options.
Able to operate in this role, and shine at the top level, Allen’s future should be addressed before long, as he is a valuable player for Klopp.
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Jurgen Klopp defended Daniel Sturridge after the England striker headed straight down the tunnel following Liverpool’s 3-1 Barclays Premier League defeat at Swansea.
Sturridge failed to acknowledge the Liverpool fans at the final whistle of a game which was the club’s first on British soil since an inquest ruled that 96 of their supporters were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough in 1989.
The 26-year-old has not been an automatic starter in recent months and has hinted that he could leave Liverpool if he does not get first-team football under Klopp.
Sturridge was left out of the Liverpool side which lost their Europa League semi-final first leg at Villarreal 1-0 on Thursday, and he must wait to see if he will start this week’s return game.
After the Swansea defeat, Sturridge posted on his official Twitter account: “Absolutely gutted. Thanks to the fans for travelling and supporting us. God willing Thursday will be a better result.”
Sturridge played the full 90 minutes at the Liberty Stadium and appeared dejected at the end as he trudged off the pitch alone.
“If somebody forgot to say something to the fans then it’s my fault,” said Klopp when asked about Sturridge’s exit.
“It is nobody else’s fault.
“If you think we ignore the fans it’s not what we wanted. I went too immediately.
“Hopefully our fans know how close we are to them.
“After a game like this if you want to leave, if you want to go…you [might] want to rest and recover and do a lot of things.”
Sturridge drew a blank against Swansea after scoring in his previous four Premier League appearances, and his fitness does not appear to be an issue before the Villarreal return.
“If he feels something I said he should give me a sign,” said Klopp.
“He said he wanted to play the 90 minutes and it’s no problem.
“He did not play on Thursday and it’s four or five days until Thursday again. He’s good.”
On the game itself which was Liverpool’s first defeat in six league games, but one which harmed their hopes of European qualification through a high Premier League placing, Klopp added: “We tried to bring fresh legs in as we have done in the last few weeks.
“But I am only frustrated because we could have played better.
“If we had played a bit nearer to 100 per cent it would have been completely different.
“The first two goals were too easy, they deserved the win and we deserved the defeat, but our performance was responsible for that and we have to recover and prepare for a big game.”
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Though Liverpool’s frail defensive line was at fault for Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Swansea City, their efforts were undermined by a non-existent midfield.
Liverpool’s hopeless 3-1 defeat in south Wales exposed some familiar weaknesses from some familiar faces, but in front of the calamitous Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren there was a void which has needed filling since 2010.
It’s one of the most underrated, and difficult positions in football. Sergio Busquets plays the role as if he’s just popped out for a kickabout on the local park, but the ease with which the Spaniard goes about his business can lead to the false assumption that it’s an easy role.
In one of Jurgen Klopp’s favoured formations, the 4-2-3-1, the midfield pair are required to have the tactical knowledge of a future manager, the mutual understanding of a top centre-back pairing or strike duo, and the technical ability required to move and retain the ball in packed midfield areas.
Liverpool were getting close to competence in this area of the field when Jordan Henderson and Emre Can enjoyed a run of games in the side, only for it to be broken up by injuries to both players.
Can has emerged as one of the best players in the squad: a natural leader and an all round footballer who, at times, can drive a team forward single-handedly. But while Henderson wasn’t attracting the same plaudits and didn’t always look at his best, at the Liberty we saw what can happen in this position if things go wrong.
Pedro Chirivella started the game alongside Kevin Stewart, and the young Spaniard has had plenty of experience in the role since joining the club.
He and Jordan Rossiter had put together some impressive performances in midfield at youth level, and they’d developed one of the best midfield understandings at the club during Brendan Rodgers’ time at the helm—when the deep-lying midfield two rarely worked at first-team level.
But along with the 22-year-old Stewart, Chirivella struggled to keep up with the game both on and off the ball.
The defence was regularly exposed throughout the first half, and this, coupled with Skrtel’s tendency to back away from attackers, created gaping holes in midfield for the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jefferson Montero, and Andre Ayew.
Even Jack Cork found space to pick his spot from distance as he curled the ball around Dejan Lovren for Swansea’s second under no pressure whatsoever.
If Chirivella is to go on to have a role at the club, then it will be as a deep lying playmaker in the mould of Xavi Alonso, rather than a terrier-like midfielder such as Javier Mascherano—which is why he and Rossiter worked so well together.
Klopp pulled Chirivella at half-time, replacing him with Lucas Leiva, but though the side had a little more possession in this period the midfield was still non-existent when it came to defending.
The statistics will show that tackles were made, but the laboriousness on the turn and the slowness of recovery meant that Liverpool rarely looked comfortable.
Stewart may have been the best of the bad bunch against Swansea, but he doesn’t look like the player who can take the control of a midfield and his effectiveness might be limited to games in which he can play alongside the likes of Can, Henderson, or Joe Allen.
Not since Mascherano left have Liverpool had an insurance policy in midfield. One which allows those further forward that bit of extra freedom going forward, safe in the knowledge that they have a defensive midfielder with pace, aggression, and tactical knowhow to cover for them if things go wrong.
This season’s revelations Leicester City have found their own Mascherano in the shape of N’Golo Kante—a player who PFA Players’ Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez will probably tell you is the real player of the season.
Kante allows Mahrez to shine, and makes the jobs of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth so much easier.
Liverpool don’t have one of these, despite the best efforts of Lucas who, even if he did have the tactical nous, doesn’t have the recovery pace. The Brazilian’s passing was impressive, but he added little protection to a stagnant centre-back duo. This is where a pro-active centre-back such as Sakho would help the fill the space behind the likes of Lucas.
This game against Swansea was a difficult one to analyse as much of the focus was on Thursday’s important Europa League second-leg tie against Villarreal, but the fact that it highlighted plenty of old problems may be beneficial in the long run.
The problems at centre-back were glaring, but the non-existent midfield should be just as much of a cause for concern—because it has been for so long.
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A much-changed Reds side lost 3-1 against Swansea City on Sunday afternoon at the Liberty Stadium, in a game that provided a mix of talking points.
Jurgen Klopp’s side endured a difficult afternoon in south Wales, slumping to defeat against Francesco Guidolin’s Swans.
First-half strikes from Andre Ayew and Jack Cork gave the home side a deserved lead before Christian Benteke halved the deficit after half-time, heading home Sheyi Ojo’s corner.
But Ayew restored the two-goal cushion to keep the points in Wales on a disappointing afternoon for Klopp’s Reds, and here are five talking points from the game.
Danny Ward a Positive
It was a day that lacked any kind of positives for the Reds, but Danny Ward was certainly one.
The Wales international came in for just his second Liverpool start in place of Simon Mignolet, and he produced another promising display between the sticks, despite conceding three.
With a disjointed defensive setup ahead of him doing little to repel the home side’s numerous chances, Ward pulled off a number of fine saves – excellent stops from Gylfi Sugurdsson and Jefferson Montero in particular – which sadly counted for little other than keeping the score down.
Despite the chaos unfolding in front of him, the young ‘keeper kept his composure, and though he perhaps could have done better with Ayew’s first goal, overall he provided a bright moment in an otherwise miserable display.
Tough but Useful Exercise for Young Reds
It was a horrible afternoon in almost every aspect for the Reds, but it’s one that will at least provide a learning curve for the youngsters involved.
Though impressive when selected alongside first-choice picks and shining on their own in cup competition, without first-teamers to rely upon in Swansea the youth experienced the harsh realities of top-level football.
Their hesitancy and lack of belief was ruthlessly exploited in all departments, with the midfield of Kevin Stewart and Pedro Chirivella lasting only 45 minutes as they were overawed and overrun.
Meanwhile in defence, Brad Smith endured a torrid day against experienced campaigner Wayne Routledge, culminating in his sending off.
Jordon Ibe failed to impress once again, while Sheyi Ojo struggled to impose himself on proceedings – despite assisting Benteke’s goal – as the youngsters were hampered with responsibility.
It provided a rude awakening for the academy players, who were shown how much work they still have to do to reach top level, but they will certainly be better off for the harsh experience.
Squad Strength Lacking
Prior to the Wales trip, Klopp talked up the strength of his squad as he planned mass changes ahead of the Villarreal second leg.
The Liverpool boss alluded to the current perception of the Reds as “big club, not so good squad” before stating “this squad is much better than everyone thinks” – showing his faith in not only the team but the group as a collective.
But the disappointing defeat shows Klopp’s faith is misplaced, with the senior squad members at his disposal currently not good enough and the squad overall, oppositely to his belief, lacking the quality to be able to make changes and still compete.
Martin Skrtel in particular showed why he must be allowed to leave Anfield this summer, with another woeful showing alongside Lovren, while Lucas Leiva’s role in the calamitous third goal is something that no longer needs to be seen.
Though injuries don’t help the current squad situation – forcing Klopp to play six academy players – youngsters need better senior reserves in key areas of the team, which Liverpool currently don’t have and which must be addressed.
Klopp Right to Rotate Despite Result
While most would agree changes were required for the clash, some felt wholesale switches should be avoided with a win needed ahead of Thursday’s crunch tie.
A much-changed side certainly contributed to defeat with the disjointed display that ensued, but despite the result, Klopp was right to make the eight alterations he did – which would likely have been nine had Connor Randall not suffered illness.
Resting the vast majority of those who played and will start on Thursday night was of unrivalled importance, and with the Europa League of undoubted priority, Klopp was right to make the adjustments he did.
It’s a case of short-term pain to give the best chance of long-term gain, and Klopp now has a number of key men who will now be fresh to go all out against the Spaniards at Anfield.
If the plan unfolds how the Liverpool boss hopes, those frustrated by Sunday’s selection are sure to forget a meaningless 3-1 loss to the Swans if the Reds do indeed reach the Basel final in May.
Sturridge Sloppy but Should Start vs. Villarreal
It was a poor day for the collective and individuals alike at the Liberty Stadium, with Daniel Sturridge one of those who turned in an abject display when more was needed in a youthful side.
The striker has been in great from recently, but visibly frustrated by a lack of service on the day, struggled to impose himself on the game – despite showing flashes of brilliance with his chipped effort first half.
A sluggish performance was capped off with him storming straight down the tunnel at the final whistle without acknowledging the away support, but despite a quiet outing, completing the full 90 as Klopp revealed he asked to, gets some much-needed minutes in his legs ahead of Thursday.
And Sturridge should certainly start against Villarreal with Liverpool needing to score on the night and him still by far the most likely source of hitting the net in the biggest game of the season.
Back in a full-strength Reds side, he could be the man to fire the Reds to within one game of European glory.
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Jurgen Klopp‘s much-changed Liverpool fell to a poor 3-1 defeat against Swansea City on a miserable afternoon in south Wales.
Swansea 3–1 Liverpool
Premier League – Liberty Stadium – Sunday 1st May 2016
Goals: Ayew 20′, 67′, Cork 33′; Benteke 64′
Lining up to face the Swans just 57 hours after arriving home from Villarreal, Jurgen Klopp heavily rotated his side in south Wales.
The Reds boss made eight changes to his XI, with Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren and Philippe Coutinho the only survivors from Thursday’s 1-0 loss.
Danny Ward replaced Simon Mignolet in goal for his second Reds start, with captain for the afternoon, Martin Skrtel, and Brad Smith completing the back four as Kolo Toure and Alberto Moreno were left on Merseyside.
With Joe Allen and James Milner also spared of the trip, and Lucas dropping to the bench, Kevin Stewart entered into midfield, partnered by Premier League debutant Pedro Chirivella.
Jordon Ibe and Sheyi Ojo resumed wide duties either side of Coutinho, and Daniel Sturridge was the chosen man to the lead the line after being left on the bench in Spain, completing Liverpool’s youngest starting XI since 1971.
Christian Benteke was named on the bench, which included only six substitutes after Connor Randall was sent home with virus.
Meanwhile, Swansea made two changes from their 4-0 loss to Leicester last week, with Jordi Amat and Jefferson Montero replacing Federico Fernandez and Leroy Fer.
In the moments before kick off, Swansea paid tribute to the Hillsborough justice campaign, with both captains Skrtel and Ashley Williams presenting a “96” wreath as You’ll Never Walk Alone was played to applause.
It was a quiet start to proceedings at the Liberty Stadium, with the young Reds struggling to find rhythm in their passing in the opening exchanges.
After a sleepy first 10 minutes, the first chance of the afternoon fell to Sturridge, who volleyed wide inside the box after a decent ball in from Ibe.
The Swans awoke immediately thereafter, with Gylfi Sugurdsson firing straight at Ward after Andre Ayew set the ball to the Icelandic midfielder, and the Ghanaian then lashed an effort of his own wildly over the bar a minute later.
The home side upped the ante as Liverpool continually caused their own problems through their own sloppiness in possession, and Swansea’s pressure eventually told in the 20th minute, in somewhat typical fashion.
After a last-ditch block from Lovren conceded a corner, Sigurdsson swung in a fine delivery which was headed home by the unmarked Ayew from six yards, to give the home side a deserved lead against the disjointed Reds.
In a rare foray forward, Coutinho embarked on a mazy run and went down in the area, but the Brazilian saw his penalty appeals waved away before Ibe’s strike was easily gathered by Lukasz Fabianski.
Swansea were in control – with the Reds’ midfield of Chirivella and Stewart constantly overrun – and only a great save from Ward prevented the home side doubling their lead, with the Welshman denying Jack Cork.
Jordi Amat then somehow headed over from point-blank range and Ward was then called to make another fine save, keeping out Montero’s effort at his near post as chances came thick and fast for the dominant Swans.
The Reds were not in the contest, looking like the inexperienced outfit they were, and on the half-hour mark Cork doubled the lead with a curling effort that beat Ward all ends up.
Klopp’s side were very much second best, but nearly pulled one back through Sturridge, whose brilliant chipped effort dropped just wide, before he then saw a speculative long-range strike saved.
Sturridge – frustrated all first half by the slowness of service from his teammates – then tried his luck from a free-kick, but struck harmlessly wide in the last action of an extremely poor first period.
Klopp made two changes at half-time as he searched for a way back into a one-sided contest, with Lucas Leiva and Christian Benteke replacing the struggling Chirivella and Coutinho, giving the Reds a 4-4-2 shape.
The switches gave the Reds a foothold, with their ball retention improved as Lucas ticked play over nicely, but creativity still lacked in a quiet start to the second half.
With 58 minutes on the clock, the deficit was nearly halved when Neil Taylor almost knocked into his own net, as Benteke went down in the box as a cross from Ojo came in.
And six minutes later, Liverpool pulled one back, with Benteke using his presence in the box to head home from a perfect corner delivered by Ojo to make it 2-1.
But the comeback was short-lived, and Swansea restored their two-goal cushion just three minutes later, when Ayew grabbed his second after some dreadful defending from Klopp’s side ended with the striker finding the bottom corner inside the box.
Francesco Guidolin’s men reasserted control on the contest, and a miserable afternoon was compounded further when Smith – who endured a torrid afternoon – was sent off 15 minutes from time.
Yet more suspect defending from a corner saw Angel Rangel nearly crash home a fourth, but his effort flashed into the side-netting as the home fans began to celebrate.
The contest petered out with both sides playing out time, but Sigurdsson looked for a fourth five minutes from time, firing a speculative effort straight at Ward from 25-yards out.
Ayew then tried his luck as he searched for a hat-trick, but shot wide, and the points stayed in Wales on a disappointing afternoon for Klopp’s side.
TIA Man of the Match: Danny Ward
Swansea: Fabianski, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Taylor, Britton (Fulton 90′), Cork, Sigurdsson, Routledge, Montero (Naughton 71′), Ayew
Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Fernandez, Ki Sung-Yueng, Barrow, Gomis
Liverpool: Ward, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Smith, Stewart, Chirivella (Lucas, half-time), Ibe (Brannagan, 80), Coutinho (Benteke, half-time), Ojo, Sturridge
Subs not used: Mignolet, Teixeira, Lallana.
Referee: Roger East
Up next: The Reds turn their attention back to their quest for European glory on Thursday night, when they host Villarreal for the crucial semi-final second-leg.
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Liverpool visit Swansea City in the Premier League on Sunday, as the Reds look to respond from their midweek defeat to Villarreal. We’re live to bring you the latest.
Swansea vs. Liverpool is live on BT Sport 1 from 11:15am (BST) with kick-off at 12pm. Our coverage updates automatically and is brought to you by Henry Jackson.
Have your say on Twitter using @thisisanfield and @HenryJackson87.
Swansea: Fabianski, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Taylor, Britton, Cork, Sigurdsson, Routledge, Montero, Ayew.
Subs: Nordfeldt, Naughton, Fernandez, Ki, Fulton, Barrow, Gomis.
Liverpool: Ward, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Smith, Stewart, Chirivella, Ibe, Ojo, Coutinho, Sturridge.
Subs: Mignolet, Benteke, Lallana, Lucas, Brannagan, Teixeira.
Referee: Roger East
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Jurgen Klopp made eight changes to his side for Liverpool’s away clash with Swansea City, with Daniel Sturridge starting in attack.
Klopp left a host of first-team players on Merseyside, with one eye on next week’s Europa League semi-final second leg at home to Villarreal.
Alberto Moreno, Kolo Toure, Joe Allen, James Milner and Roberto Firmino all sat out, while Jon Flanagan remained in Liverpool as he continues to build up his fitness.
One player to travel, however, was Sturridge, who was left on the bench for Thursday night’s 1-0 draw in the first leg in Villarreal but returns to start up front in a much-changed lineup.
Danny Ward makes his second start for the Reds in goal, taking Simon Mignolet‘s spot behind a makeshift back four.
With Connor Randall ruled out with a virus, Nathaniel Clyne continues at right-back, with Martin Skrtel captaining the side alongside Dejan Lovren at the heart of defence.
Left-back Brad Smith is among six academy players to start in Liverpool’s youngest side of the campaign, with Kevin Stewart and Pedro Chirivella taking up roles in the midfield.
Flanking Philippe Coutinho in the No. 10 role, Jordon Ibe and Sheyi Ojo will provide support for Sturridge in what is likely a 4-2-3-1 formation.
With Randall unavailable, Klopp has named just six substitutes in Simon Mignolet, Lucas Leiva, Cameron Brannagan, Joao Carlos Teixeira, Adam Lallana and Christian Benteke.
Swansea City: Fabianski; Rangel, Williams, Amat, Taylor; Britton, Cork; Montero, Sigurdsson, Routledge; Ayew
Substitutes: Nordfeldt, Naughton, Fernandez, Fulton, Ki, Barrow, Gomis
Liverpool: Ward; Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Smith; Stewart, Chirivella; Ibe, Coutinho, Ojo; Sturridge
Substitutes: Mignolet, Lucas, Brannagan, Teixeira, Lallana, Benteke
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Liverpool will officially reveal their new home kit for the 2016/17 season in an event on the banks of the Mersey on May 9.
Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan and Simon Mignolet will model the new kits at the Pier Head, with supporters able to collect wristbands to attend the event.
Also broadcast via a live stream on LFCTV, the event will feature ex-Reds Robbie Fowler and Jason McAteer, and will debut the club’s home kit.
To attend, over-16s supporters can collect wristbands from club shops in Liverpool, Birkenhead and Chester from today, limited to six per person, with under-16s able to attend with an adult.
Those who wish to attend are advised to collect their wristbands early to avoid disappointment.
The wristband can also be redeemed for a free name and number on the back of a new home shirt taken to any club store before midnight on May 12.
This comes after pictures of the new home kit, modelled by Mignolet, Henderson, James Milner and Emre Can, were leaked online through the New Balance website.
Liverpool have perhaps wisely avoided any more controversial characters taking part in this year’s kit launch, with Raheem Sterling‘s inclusion in last year’s event prompting jeers from supporters.
For more details of the kit launch, visit the club’s official website here.
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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will make strengthening his defence a priority next season, he told reporters on Friday afternoon.
The Reds have dropped the most points from winning positions in the Premier League in the current campaign and it was a major factor in their inconsistency in his first few months in charge.
Last weekend they squandered a 2-0 first-half lead to draw at home to Newcastle to end a run of four consecutive victories in all competitions.
Klopp’s defensive capabilities have been hampered by UEFA’s initial 30-day suspension – which is likely to be longer with further punishment – imposed on Mamadou Sakho for failing a drugs test.
He has signed Schalke defender Joel Matip to come in during the summer and the German is in the market for cover in central midfield, but in the meantime he has to find a way to shore up his side in their remaining four league matches to prevent their domestic season fizzling out.
“When you build up a team, you start with the defence – that’s how it is,” said Klopp.
“It keeps you in the game and gives you the opportunity to score once and win the game.
“I’m never happy with conceding goals, to be honest.
“It’s clear it’s how we build up a team and that’s one of the biggest targets for the next season – not for the rest of this season but for next season and then to build up a stability in this part of the game.
“We had different problems in this and we solved a lot of them already.
“Set-pieces were the worst, to be honest. It’s a part of the game where we needed to improve and we did.”
Liverpool head to Swansea on Sunday looking to maintain the pressure on fifth-placed Manchester United, who began the weekend four points ahead.
They have the distraction of a Europa League semi-final second leg, in which they trail Villarreal 1-0, on Thursday, but Klopp insists their domestic form is something which cannot be allowed to suffer.
“We will go there (Swansea) and try to win,” he added.
“We know about the situation, we can read the table – it’s easy.
“If we can win then we change the situation in the table with this game.”
Klopp is likely to use a number of his fringe players at the Liberty Stadium, including giving reserve goalkeeper Danny Ward another outing following his Premier League debut at Bournemouth a fortnight ago, after a 56-hour turnaround following their return from Spain.
It is something the Reds boss has had to do on several occasions this season, mainly due to enforced injuries, but now he is just trying to manage the physical and emotional demands on his senior players.
“To be honest, that’s what we are working on all the time,” he said.
“You have a starting line-up and we always try to keep the rest of players confident too with little talks, with little signs or whatever – especially with training.
“Bournemouth (a 2-1 win) was impressive, Stoke (4-0) was impressive so that’s very important for us and these are the best signs Liverpool can get.
“I’m pleased with the development of the players, but that’s what they have to do.
“Our decision is done and we say, ‘Okay they are more than good enough to play for Liverpool’, and it’s up to the players to show it and perform. That’s not too easy with no rhythm.
“But the only target for this week is to beat Swansea and nothing else.”
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Piotr Zielinski, the Polish midfielder heavily linked with a summer move to Liverpool, has highlighted what he could bring to Jurgen Klopp‘s squad.
The 21-year-old is currently in the second year of his loan spell with Serie A side Empoli, but could leave parent club Udinese on a permanent transfer this summer.
Speaking at the end of March, Zielinski hinted at talks between his representatives and the Reds, saying that “it would be great to play alongside [Philippe] Coutinho.”
As the summer transfer window approaches, Zielinski spoke to FourFourTwo and explained he was waiting for “an interesting offer,” though Real Madrid remain his “dream” club.
“I wouldn’t mind staying in Serie A for years because I feel very good in Italy,” he said.
“I understand, though, that the English and Spanish leagues are a little bit better at the moment.
“If an interesting offer arises, why not?
“I’ve got three games left to play this season and then hopefully Euro 2016, so I want to focus on that, but in the summer anything is possible.
“My childhood dream was always to play for Real Madrid, but I know there’s a long way ahead of me, if [it] ever [happens].
“They only hire the megastars of football, so I’d have to prove myself first.”
The notion of proving himself, and using Liverpool as a stepping stone to a move to the Bernabeu, is unlikely to endear Zielinski to supporters or Klopp.
But at 21, Zielinski is clearly an ambitious young player and, in the eyes of Poland manager, a midfielder his country can “definitely count on.”
Like summer arrival Marko Grujic, Zielinski is something of an unknown quantity to most, but he went on to explain his best role.
“My natural position is as a central attacking midfielder playing behind one or two strikers,” he continued.
“I’ve also occasionally played on the right wing this season, but centrally is where I’m at my best.
“I can play in the middle in any system, just definitely in a more offensive role.
“I’m still not that comfortable defensively, but I’m improving steadily thanks to [Empoli manager Marco] Giampaolo.”
Able to call upon Zielinski in a central attacking role could be an attractive prospect for Klopp, who will be looking for cover for first-choice No. 10 Roberto Firmino this summer.
Set to start for Poland at this summer’s European Championship, Zielinski’s value could rise rapidly ahead of 2016/17.
That “interesting offer” may be worth preparing ahead of the youngster’s summer trip to France.
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Borussia Dortmund defender Neven Subotic could be on the way to Liverpool this summer, as Jurgen Klopp seeks cover for the suspended Mamadou Sakho.
Sakho has been provisionally suspended for 30 days after testing positive for a banned fat-burning drug, and is likely to face at least six months on the sidelines as a result.
With Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure both poised to leave Liverpool this summer, Klopp’s centre-back ranks are decidedly thin.
This has led Klopp to turn his attention to the transfer market, and his former defensive stalwart, Subotic.
According to German publication Revier Sport, Subotic could follow Mats Hummels out of Dortmund this summer, with Liverpool most likely to sign the 27-year-old Serbian.
Subotic has made just 11 appearances so far this season, after struggles with a back injury and, more recently, thrombosis in his arm.
Behind Hummels, Sokratis and Sven Bender in Thomas Tuchel’s centre-back pecking order, it seems likely that Subotic will leave the Westfalenstadion at the end of the season.
This would mark the end of an eight-year spell with the club, having been brought to Dortmund from Mainz in 2008.
Klopp’s admiration for Subotic, leading to that move from Mainz, is clear, and a move for the Serbia international would make sense on a basic level.
While limited compared to the likes of Sakho, Subotic is an intelligent, experienced centre-back, familiar with the demands of Klopp’s tactical system, and is likely to be available for a low fee.
Given his battle for fitness in recent seasons, Subotic would likely accept a bit-part role at Anfield—though his injury problems should be a red flag for the Reds.
Signing Subotic would be something of a gamble for Klopp, but one in which the German has plenty of faith.
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Jurgen Klopp has revealed why Jon Flanagan has featured so sporadically since his return from injury this season, saying he must continue to work on his fitness.
Flanagan has made just six appearances for the first team since recovering from a long-term knee injury, with a further 180 minutes over three games with the Liverpool U21s.
With Klopp preferring Connor Randall to the 23-year-old in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle United, many questioned Flanagan’s absence.
But speaking to reporters on Friday afternoon, Klopp explained that Flanagan must work to “build a base” of fitness before featuring regularly in his first team.
“Flanno is in a situation—it’s not too easy to explain—that [means] he cannot train all the time,” he said.
“When you’re out for this long period, you can’t train all the time [and] you can’t build a base—that’s all.
“It’s a little bit similar, different story, to what I said about Daniel [Sturridge] with the long injury breaks.
“If we want to help him, we need to work on his physical resistance so that he is ready for more than one game and then two or three days recovery or something – it’s not how it should work.
“That’s what we try to do.”
After 619 days out with a series of knee problems, Flanagan’s slow transition back into life in the Liverpool squad is understandable.
Struggling to maintain full fitness during the rigours of Liverpool’s 2015/16 schedule suggests that Flanagan needs more time to recover, and Klopp is wise to offer him that.
Having pushed for a new contract for the academy product, and named him as captain in the Reds’ 3-2 loss to Southampton in March, it is clear that Klopp is an admirer of Flanagan’s talents.
Therefore, the German is taking a similar stance to that which he has taken with Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge was left out of Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday night, leading to criticism from large sections of the support.
But Klopp explained that “everything is too intense” to expect the No. 15 to play week in, week out after his own injury nightmare.
Taking a long-term view to both Sturridge and Flanagan, Klopp’s search for sustainability should ultimately pay off.
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Jurgen Klopp‘s youth recruitment drive could extend to Ligue 1 this summer, with a trio of young French prospects on Liverpool’s radar.
Shortly after Klopp’s arrival on Merseyside in October, the German stressed that “the door is wide open for youth,” and having given the likes of Sheyi Ojo and Connor Randall debuts this season, that approach is clear.
With 19-year-old Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic set to arrive this summer, Klopp could look to add more young players to his squad for 2016/17.
Reports in France this week suggest that Liverpool are pursuing a crop of French talents in Jonathan Ikone, Thomas Lemar and Ballo Toure Fode.
Seventeen-year-old winger Ikone is a target for the Reds, Juventus and Man United this summer, according to L’Equipe.
The French newspaper claims that Ikone could follow in the footsteps of Kingsley Coman, and leaving Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer at the end of the season.
A fleet-footed midfield option capable of operating on either flank, Ikone has turned out for PSG’s U19s side this season, but may opt for a move elsewhere in search of first-team football in the long term.
Meanwhile, L’Equipe have also named Liverpool among a number of European giants in pursuit of AS Monaco midfielder Lemar.
Bayern Munich are said to be weighing up an offer for the versatile 20-year-old, who has scored five goals and laid on a further three assists in 23 Ligue 1 appearances this season.
This has seen Lemar fielded on the left and right wings, in the centre of midfield and in the No. 10 role, with Klopp likely an admirer of his flexibility.
Liverpool, Bayern, Man City and Atletico Madrid are the clubs linked with Lemar this summer, though Monaco are thought to be demanding a fee close to the £36 million that took Anthony Martial to United last summer.
Finally, French publication FootMercato have suggested that Liverpool are monitoring Fode’s contract situation at PSG, with West Ham United also rumoured to be interested in the left-back.
Fode is yet to sign a professional contract with the Paris club, and at 19, faces a make-or-break decision.
With Martial’s impact at United perhaps serving as a marker for the quality of young players in Ligue 1, Klopp’s interest in Ikone, Lemar and Fode could be well placed.
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Daniel Sturridge had provided a pragmatic assessment of his long-term future, saying that “I would never say I am Liverpool until I die.”
Sturridge’s absence in Thursday night’s Europa League defeat away to Villarreal prompted ripples of concern throughout the Liverpool support, but Jurgen Klopp has since explained he is managing the striker’s fitness.
“It does not work. The Premier League, Europa League, everything is too intense,” he told reporters, abating fears of a rift between the manager and his star player.
But speaking at an event before the trip to Villarreal, Sturridge gave no assurances over his future on Merseyside, insisting that he wanted to play every game.
“Maybe people don’t see this, but I am someone who wants to play every minute of every match, so maybe when I’m not starting or when I’m taken off, it’s hard to take,” he said.
“You want to be on the pitch every single match, every single minute.
“It’s exciting, of course, what the manager is bringing and where we are heading.
“I am doing everything in my power to be out there on the pitch, and I am feeling good as well.
“There are things I want to achieve with Liverpool. [But] I would never say I am Liverpool until I die, because I would be lying.
“I think any player who says, ‘Oh yeah, this is the only team I will play for, for the rest of my life’, they are deluded.
“In football, every team looks for replacements every single year.”
This could serve as a call to arms from Sturridge, providing Klopp with an ultimatum of ‘play me or lose me’, but as he went on to explain, this is merely the standpoint of an “ambitious” striker.
“All I can do every weekend is go out there, perform as well as I can, perform to the best of my abilities,” he continued.
“Then come the end of the season hopefully have the European Championship to look forward to…and to next year.
“I’m feeling so good right now, feeling great, and my body is at a level where I’m able to play however many games a week repeatedly and not break down.
“I am so ambitious, so hungry, right now for success that it is hard to put it into words.
“Now I’m in a place where I feel amazing, and I feel ready.
“My body feels great, I’m ready to play every game for the team.”
Sturridge is likely to start in Liverpool’s Premier League clash away to Swansea City on Sunday afternoon, and with Klopp promising to “try everything” at Villarreal in their second-leg clash at Anfield next week, can expect to feature in the Reds’ crucial Europa League decider.
After sitting out of the loss in Villarreal, Sturridge should be refreshed—and ready to fire Liverpool to success.
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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has no regrets about leaving Daniel Sturridge on the bench for their Europa League semi-final defeat in Villarreal and even with hindsight would make the same decision again.
The England striker, who has scored four in his last five matches, was an unused substitute in Spain on Thursday night despite the Reds lacking a cutting edge up front and thousands of fans on social media were left bemused.
Klopp insists he has to make difficult decisions in the best interests of the team and even if he was given the chance he would still not change what he planned for the Primera Division side.
“It is about finding a stability. With decisions like this it is always two questions,” he said.
“Was it the right decision to choose this line-up? With a 1-0 defeat you cannot be sure it is 100 per cent right.
“The next question is: Would I do it again? Yes. Then it is finished and I don’t have to think about it again.
“That is my life – making decisions and in the end accepting the result.
“With Daniel in particular it is not about how it is always, it was a decision for this line-up. That is very important. It was not against Daniel.
“My job is not to do what you the media want, what the player wants, it is to try to help the player and help the team in this moment.
“I always try to do my best and because I am not perfect maybe it sometimes does not work. But next time I will try it again.”
The 26-year-old is likely to return to the team for Sunday’s trip to Swansea and Klopp has no doubts the striker will be at the top of his game.
“The mentality of Daniel is really good, very confident, because he has all these qualities and he knows about these qualities,” added the German.
“Daniel came back from injury and now he is fit for the longest period [for a long time]. That is very important.
“We could have let him play in the first few weeks, hoping he could do something special, but that would not have been the right decision for him because then he would have been injured again.
“It does not work. The Premier League, Europa League, everything is too intense.
“It is about balance absolutely always. I’ve said a few times that I always think more about the strengths of a player than the weaknesses.”
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Martin Skrtel has polarised opinion throughout his Liverpool career, but he deserves to leave Anfield with his reputation intact.
Mamadou Sakho‘s much-publicised failure of a drugs test is a huge blow to Jurgen Klopp, with the Frenchman in superb form prior to his suspension.
There is suddenly a gaping void at the heart of the Reds’ defence, as the Reds’ hopes turn to Europa League glory, despite a 1-0 defeat to Villarreal in the first leg of the semi-finals.
Kolo Toure has come in alongside Dejan Lovren in Sakho’s absence and performed comfortably, but Skrtel is likely to feature in the Premier League between now and the end of the season.
With the Slovakian seemingly not a part of Klopp’s long-term plans, and heavily linked with a move to Besiktas, it provides him with a chance to finish his Liverpool career on a high.
Believe it or not, there was a time when Skrtel was actually rated highly by the majority Liverpool supporters, much as some may hate to admit it.
He won the Reds’ Player of the Year award in 2011/12, forging a formidable centre-back partnership alongside Daniel Agger and scoring in the League Cup final triumph against Cardiff City.
Admittedly, there may not have been great competition for the award, but the 31-year-old still produced some very influential performances.
To have played over 300 times for a club of Liverpool’s stature is an impressive achievement, regardless of what you think of him, and that should not be forgotten when he moves on.
Despite this, Skrtel’s career will always be one of frustration, and he has lost admirers at an alarming rate in the last few years.
For too long, he has been the one constant in an increasingly leaky Reds defence, with own goals, rash tackles and poor positional play all depressingly frequent.
Many will point to the 2013/14 season and say that Skrtel’s seven goals proved he had a good campaign, but he was erratic in his primary job for the team, as Liverpool conceded 50 goals in the Premier League.
He got worse last season, as Brendan Rodgers‘ empire came crashing down around him, and supporters were losing patience at a rapid rate.
For much of his career, Skrtel has been one of those players who seems to escape criticism, but that has changed in 2015/16.
It has become more and more clear that he is past his peak, and the way in which Sakho and Lovren have thrived has only further highlighted the Slovakia international’s deficiencies.
His shambolic second-half showing away to Southampton last month, in which he almost single-handedly allowed a 2-0 lead to dissolve, felt like the final nail in his coffin.
There is still time for Skrtel to end on a high, however, with a handful of matches still remaining this season.
With Klopp’s squad suddenly looking a little depleted – Sakho, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi all look likely to miss the rest of the campaign – there is a chance for fringe players to step up to the plate.
Skrtel very much falls into this category now, and he will no doubt be desperate to earn some playing time in what may be his final few weeks on Merseyside.
The upcoming Premier League games against Swansea City and Watford will surely see him start, with those playing against Villarreal likely to be rested.
Putting in a few decent displays would be a good way to bow out in a Liverpool shirt, and may go some way to reminding the fans that it has not been all bad for him during his eight years at Anfield.
Toure’s creeping age at 35 suggest that the Ivorian will be one of those to sit out in the league, with the focus very much on reaching the Europa League final, though Skrtel would be as desperate as anyone to get the Reds over the finish line.
He clearly loves the club, with his manic celebrations from the sidelines, following Liverpool’s League Cup semi-final against Stoke City in January serving as proof of that.
Divisive, but Deserving of a Send-Off
As the years have passed since he joined from Zenit St Petersburg in early 2008, Skrtel has divided opinion like few other players.
He has always had a sizeable chunk of devotees – rival supporters and pundits have endlessly labelled him Liverpool’s best centre-back in recent years – but plenty have seen through this facade.
Those last-ditch tackles and flying headers have been lauded by some, while others have been left pulling their hair out by his recklessness and lack of leadership.
When the dust settles, Skrtel will likely be remembered as someone who epitomised what has been a disappointing era for Liverpool, with inconsistent showings forever being his downfall.
For someone who has given some good service to the club over many years, however, it would be a shame for him to end as a figure of complete ridicule in the eyes of some.
He may not be the most popular player around, and he certainly has his faults, but he has the chance to enjoy a happy ending at Liverpool.
His opportunity will no doubt come in the league, starting with Sunday’s clash away to Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.
It would be nice to see a long-serving player play out his final weeks in positive fashion, rather than leave us with that dreadful memory of Southampton away.
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We take a look at how Jurgen Klopp could line his side up as the Liverpool manager makes his first trip to the Liberty Stadium to take on Swansea City.
The Reds head to Swansea looking to return to winning ways on the Premier League stage, just 57 hours after arriving home from an ill-timed first European loss this season.
Liverpool have little to play for on the domestic front, but the trip to south Wales at least gives Klopp and his squad the chance to move on swiftly from Thursday’s defeat to Villarreal, and to restore belief to the group ahead of the crucial second leg.
Klopp has made a habit of ringing the changes after European exploits and with recovery time extremely limited before the midday kick-off, the Reds boss has confirmed he will do so again with “fresh legs” and “fresh minds” needed at the Liberty.
The Team News
Liverpool’s XI vs. The Swans
Klopp has made no secret that changes will be made on Sunday and a youthful side is set to be named.
There are a whole host of lineups available to Klopp, but one that could tempt the manager is the possibility of deploying fresh duo Sturridge and Benteke as a strike partnership in a 4-4-2 formation.
Ibe and Ojo can come in to play the wide roles enjoyed in recent games, either side of Stewart and stand-in captain James Milner, which would allow Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen rest.
In defence, Ward, Randall, Smith and Martin Skrtel could join Dejan Lovren in forming a rotated rearguard ahead of Villarreal’s arrival, and those changes would see the Reds look like this on Sunday:
Alternatively, Klopp may want to stick to a more familiar setup that he has turned to recent games, with a 4-3-3 lineup a possibility.
In that, Flanagan could play instead of Randall, and if Klopp wants to completely change his back four, he could hand a surprise outing to forgotten man, Steven Caulker, alongside Skrtel.
Stewart and Milner could be joined by Brannagan or Chirivella for a three-man centre – with the young duo part of the squad that travelled to Spain – which would allow Ibe, Ojo and Sturridge to start in attack – keeping Benteke for a second-half appearance.
That would see Liverpool look like this come 12pm kick-off time on Sunday afternoon:
Sunday’s game is little more than a distraction sandwiched between vital European affairs, but victory would be welcome to provide a confidence boost ahead of Thursday’s crucial return leg.
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Liverpool make the Premier League trip to Swansea on Sunday lunchtime, as they look to bounce back from their Europa League defeat to Villarreal.
Swansea City vs. Liverpool
Sunday 1st May 2016, 12:00 (GMT)
Referee: Roger East
Thursday’s 1-0 defeat in Spain was a tough one to take, with Adrian Lopez’s last-gasp effort giving the Reds plenty to do in next week’s semi-final second leg.
The performance was good in general, if a little on the negative side, but once again a fairly soft goal proved to be game-changing.
Sunday’s trip to the Liberty Stadium is one of Liverpool’s least important matches of the season, although finishing in the top six must still be an aim.
Jurgen Klopp is sure to ring the changes – it could be that all 11 starters against Villarreal do not feature – with youngsters given a chance to impress once again.
Thursday’s defeat was the first that Liverpool have suffered since their capitulation at Southampton six weeks ago, which outlines their good recent form.
Things have gradually been taking shape under Klopp, with goals coming at a rapid rate and improvements noticeable in all areas of the pitch.
Despite this change in fortunes, the Reds do still lack of bit consistency in terms of their performances, with the limp 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle United last week a far cry from the footballing lesson they gave Everton four days earlier.
They have undoubtedly been one of the form teams of 2016, however, and once Klopp has worked his magic in the summer transfer window, they should once again go up another gear.
Swansea have endured a disappointing season, especially in comparison to their consistent run of mid-table finishes since promotion to the Premier League in 2011.
They currently sit 15th in the table, and it has only been in the last month or so that their relegation fears have completely eased.
The Swans were soundly beaten at Leicester City last weekend, and an insipid 3-0 loss to Newcastle in their previous match had all the hallmarks of a team already on their summer holidays.
Relegation has never quite felt on the cards, though, with Swansea chipping away at points throughout the campaign.
A 2-1 win at Arsenal in March was arguably their most impressive result of 2015/16.
Form Guide (Last 10 games)
A tight game at Anfield back in late November was settled by one goal, as Liverpool snuck past the visitors in gritty fashion.
James Milner‘s 62nd-minute penalty won it for the Reds, after left-back Neil Taylor was penalised for handball inside the area.
Matches between the two sides have invariably been tight in the five years since Swansea’s promotion to the top-flight, with last season’s showdown at the Liberty Stadium proof of that.
Jordan Henderson‘s fluky effort earned Brendan Rodgers‘ Liverpool side three important points, in their ultimately failed quest for a top-four finish.
The most notable recent clash was the 4-3 win at Anfield in February 2014, as doubles from Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson helped Liverpool continue their title charge in entertaining fashion.
Swansea have not beaten the Reds since October 2012, when a 3-1 away win in the League Cup sent Rodgers’ men crashing out of the competition.
Their last Premier League triumph came in May of the same year – Rodgers was still Swansea manager at this point – when Danny Graham’s late goal saw the Swans end their first season in the Premier League with a win.
Sunday could represent a good chance for Francesco Guidolin’s side to defeat Liverpool, considering how weak their starting lineup is likely to be, but Klopp will be determined to put last weekend’s draw with the Magpies behind him.
There are no new injury concerns for Klopp ahead of the match, with everyone coming through the Villarreal game unscathed.
Philippe Coutinho did have to be withdrawn at half-time because he felt unwell, but the Brazilian is thought to have recovered. It would be a surprise if he featured on Sunday, though.
Mamadou Sakho will not feature for the rest of the season, following his initial 30-day suspension by UEFA, while Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi are all still missing.
Danny Ings trained with Liverpool U21s on Thursday, which is great news for the Englishman, having missed a huge chunk of the season with a cruciate ligament injury.
It will be interesting to see whether Sturridge plays against Swansea or not, with many fans left surprised that he didn’t feature at all on Thursday.
The 26-year-old may well start, as could Christian Benteke, while the likes of Danny Ward, Connor Randall, Martin Skrtel, Brad Smith, Jordon Ibe and Sheyi Ojo look set to play as well.
Leroy Fer is the only Swansea player of note who is unavailable for the match, while Alberto Paloschi is also missing. Both have hamstring injuries.
Guidolin’s biggest task is to get his players revved up for the game, with their recent performances lacking a huge amount of intensity.
What the Managers Say
Klopp admits changes will be made to his team, following Thursday’s exploits in Spain:
“We have to respect the intensity of the last game and think about the line-up for Sunday.
“If we think too much about Thursday (the second-leg at Anfield) then we have no chance on Sunday, and we respect the Premier League.
“Of course, we need to have a look at the players from yesterday. We got home at 3:30am and I’m sure nobody slept immediately when they got home. I have to make a decision on the line-up when I see them later.
“The other players were impressive against Bournemouth and Stoke, and hopefully we can do it again on Sunday. It is not possible to play with the same line-up as Villarreal. It doesn’t make sense.”
Meanwhile, Guidolin has insisted his side aren’t already ‘on the beach’, saying Swansea will approach Sunday’s clash like a final:
“I don’t know in the Premier League if this is a usual situation because there are other teams the same as us.
“Bournemouth, Stoke, Watford, Crystal Palace and West Brom [are] also all in our situation [on] around 40 points.
“I spoke with my players and they are convinced to play the right way and play the remaining games as three finals.”
Odds & TV Info
Swansea are, perhaps surprisingly, 43/20 to beat the Reds this weekend. Considering the number of alterations Klopp will make, that looks a good bet.
Liverpool are 13/10 to add another three points to their Premier League tally – catching West Ham United and Man United is still not out of the question – while the draw is 5/2.
Both teams to score is 37/50, which feels likely when you remember Swansea have conceded seven goals in their last two matches, and that the Reds will have an inexperienced back line.
Sturridge is the 22/5 favourite to open the scoring, which suggests the bookies feel he will start, while Benteke is 5/1 to net first.
Bafetimbi Gomis (23/4) is seen as Swansea’s most likely player to give his side the lead, while in-form Gylfi Sigurdsson is not a bad bet at 6/1.
The match is live on BT Sport 1 from 11:15am (BST), so if you’ve have had a late Saturday night, you may want to set your alarm. Kick-off is at 12pm.
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There are now just three weeks of the 2015/16 Premier League season remaining, and we take a look at the upcoming matches this weekend.
With European football dominating the midweek on-pitch action – matters off the pitch have been far more important – focus now turns back to England’s top flight.
Liverpool visit Swansea City on Sunday lunchtime, but with the game sandwiched in between the Reds’ Europa League semi-final clashes with Villarreal, it is far from their most important game of the campaign.
Jurgen Klopp is sure to rest many key players ahead of next Thursday’s must-win second leg at Anfield, with youngsters given a chance to shine in Wales.
Although Liverpool don’t have too much to play for in the league now, that is not the case for a number of other teams.
Leicester on the Brink
One of the most incredible achievements in English sporting history is now very close to coming to fruition, with Leicester City just one victory away from lifting the Premier League trophy.
The Foxes won 4-0 at home to Swansea in their last outing, and Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion means Claudio Ranieri’s men are seven points clear with three games left to play.
They make the trip to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, and winning the title at the home of Man United would be a fitting way to seal glory.
Leicester have simply never slowed up, even when the pressure has increased, and it is surely now a case of when they win the league, rather than if.
Spurs have given their own title challenge their best shot, staying in the hunt throughout, but they look set to come up short.
They visit Chelsea on Monday night, and will be desperate for United to have done them a favour a day earlier, in order for their very slim title chances to still be alive.
Man City, now in third place, are away to Southampton on Sunday, but like Liverpool, their focus is likely to be on European commitments next week.
Arsenal, who many feel have blown their best chance of winning the league in a decade, host struggling Norwich City, with Alex Neil’s side in the relegation zone by virtue of goal difference.
It is Sunderland who are just outside the bottom three as things stand, but they have Norwich and Newcastle United hot on their heels.
The Black Cats travel to take on a Stoke City side with absolutely nothing to play for, with their dire recent results sure to give Sam Allardyce plenty of confidence ahead of the match.
Newcastle battled back from 2-0 down to earn a draw at Anfield last weekend, with Rafa Benitez‘s fighting qualities coming to the fore.
The Magpies host Crystal Palace on Saturday, and considering their opponents have the FA Cup final to focus on, they may not be at full tilt at St James’ Park.
The remaining games of the weekend all feel very end-of-season.
Everton take on Bournemouth at Goodison Park, Watford are at home to Aston Villa and West Brom welcome West Ham United at the Hawthorns.
The Hammers do have a top-six finish to aim for, however, which would ensure a Europa League spot next season, ahead of their move to the Olympic Stadium.
Full Fixtures & TV Info
Everton vs. Bournemouth – Saturday 3pm
Newcastle vs. Crystal Palace – Saturday 3pm
Stoke vs. Sunderland – Saturday 3pm
Waford vs. Aston Villa – Saturday 3pm
West Brom vs. West Ham – Saturday 3pm
Arsenal vs. Norwich – Saturday 5:30pm, Sky Sports 1
Swansea vs. Liverpool – Sunday 12pm, BT Sport 1
Man United vs. Leicester – Sunday 2:05pm, Sky Sports 1
Southampton vs. Man City – Sunday 4:30pm, Sky Sports 1
Chelsea vs. Tottenham – Monday 8pm, Sky Sports 1
Fantasy Football Tips
Aston Villa’s relegation to the Championship was seemingly done and dusted around Christmas time, and they are making a strong case for being the worst Premier League team in history.
The Midlands club visit Watford this weekend, and the Hornets will fancy themselves to win handsomely against Villa. Selecting striker Troy Deeney in your fantasy football team would be a shrewd move.
Both United and Leicester have generally been very impressive defensively this season, and Sunday’s showdown at Old Trafford could easily end in a stalemate.
It will be a game that is dominated by the two defences, so including left-back Marcos Rojo in your team makes sense. He is far from the best full-back around, but he will be a relatively cheap addition.
Fabio Borini was never quite good enough to make the grade at Liverpool, but he has found his level at Sunderland, and is performing well.
The Italian has always had a knack for scoring big goals rather than lots of them, and he could well be the Black Cats’ saviour away to Stoke on Saturday.
There are many who feel Spurs will slip up away to Chelsea, but they are a far superior team at present, and should have enough to win in west London.
With Dele Alli suspended, Heung-Min Son should come into the team at Stamford Bridge. He is cheaper than the likes of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, and could play a key role.
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