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Thursday 23 January 2020

John Aldridge: Qatar trip could be blessing in disguise for Pool in race for the title

Xherdan Shaqiri during Liverpool training in Qatar, he could be included to start this evening
Xherdan Shaqiri during Liverpool training in Qatar, he could be included to start this evening

Liverpool declined an invitation to play in the competition now known as the FIFA World Club Cup back in 1978, but I believe they are right to go for glory in Qatar this week.

The trip to the Middle East at this hectic time of the season has divided opinion and there is a view that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp should have sent a few of his younger players to Qatar and put out a slightly more experienced team in last night's Carabao Cup quarter-final.

I back Klopp all the way in any decision he makes and we should remember that the full story on what has gone on behind the scenes ahead of this strange week in Liverpool's history may not be fully known.

Option

FIFA would have been expecting a full-strength Liverpool team to show up for their semi-final against Mexican side Monterrey today, so choosing to hold back some senior players to play in the Villa game might not have been an option.

Players of Adam Lallana's stature remained in England to play the Carabao Cup game, but Klopp is the kind of guy who goes all-in when he sets his sights on a goal and he wants to win this FIFA competition.

The traditionalist in me thinks I'd rather see Liverpool at Wembley in February, winning another trophy rather than playing in a tournament that is a little bit of a mystery out in Qatar, but this is a trophy the club has not won before they should aim to add it to the long list of successes.

A second factor might be that Klopp and Liverpool could do without a two-leg semi-final of the Carabao Cup next month, possibly against Manchester City or Manchester United, on the back of the Christmas rush of fixtures.

Winning the Premier League and getting this 30-year wait for the trophy off their backs has to be the priority in 2020 and with a ten-point lead established at the top of the table after their remarkable start to the season, Liverpool need to finish the job off in a professional manner.

So, while it's easy to be sceptical about a tournament played at a strange time of the year in an unfamiliar part of the world, Klopp has to find the positives in the hand he has been dealt.

With the forecast for the rest of this week in Qatar looking nice and sunny, I wonder whether Liverpool will treat this as a mid-season warm weather break and it might just give a few players a chance to refresh their batteries ahead of the big Christmas games in the Premier League.

Back in my playing days, a tournament a long way from home in mid-December might have been an ordeal as planes were not what they are now and hotels are certainly in a different league these days.

Having been out there myself, I can guarantee that the Doha hotel the players are staying in is out of this world and it could be that this little break from Premier League action might be a blessing in disguise for Liverpool.

Horizon

Whatever anyone says, the title race is not over with 63 points still to play for in the second half of the season and a couple of defeats or injuries to key players could derail Liverpool, with tricky games against Leicester and Wolves on the horizon over the Christmas period.

As we saw once again in the 2-0 win against Watford on Saturday, Liverpool are pulling clear at the top of the Premier League without firing on all cylinders and a slip-up or two will be inevitable unless they find top gear in a period of the season when the games come at a rapid pace.

With that in mind, Klopp needs to ensure he manages his squad carefully and I expect him to rotate his players for this evening's Club World Cup clash and give a few of his back-up men some game time.

The title of World Champions would be nice to add to their list of accomplishments in a year that has seen them convert their promise into real success with the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup wins.

A sixth European title confirmed that Klopp's team are already assured of a place in the club's folklore and if they can add FIFA World Club Cup and Premier League glory to their list of achievements, they will be right up there with the great sides in Liverpool's illustrious history.

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