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Wednesday 29 January 2020

Klopp aims to keep it clean

Pool boss is keen for his side to repeat feat in Austria

Mohamed Salah got himself on the scoresheet. Pic: Reuters
Mohamed Salah got himself on the scoresheet. Pic: Reuters

Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool's first clean sheet in 14 games created a buzz in the dressing room and has challenged his players to repeat the trick to reach the Champions League knockout stages.

The in-form Reds ruthlessly tightened their grip on top spot by making it 33 Premier League games unbeaten with Saturday's convincing 3-0 success at struggling Bournemouth.

Goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah earned another important victory, which was built on the club's first shutout since September 28.

European champions Liverpool must tomorrow avoid defeat at RB Leipzig to guarantee progress to the Champions League last 16 and manager Klopp is eager for another solid defensive display.

"I forgot actually how it feels, to be honest. It's great, we should have that more often," Klopp said of not conceding.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates his goal against Bournemouth. Pic: Getty
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates his goal against Bournemouth. Pic: Getty

"For the boys, that was the most used word in the dressing room when I came in, 'clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet'.

Desperate

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that and now we have it, so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday. It feels good."

The clean sheet coincided with first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker's return from a one-match suspension, although he did not have a save to make against a team which has now suffered five successive defeats and sits a point above the drop zone.

Klopp also insists he has never doubted the quality of £52.7million midfielder Keita.

Keita, who arrived at Anfield to much fanfare in the summer of 2018, has been reduced to a peripheral figure and played a limited role in last season's Champions League success and the club's current 33-game Premier League unbeaten run.

The Guinea international gave a reminder of his ability with his goal and an assist on his first top-flight start of the campaign. Reds boss Klopp, who has reassured the 24-year-old about his lack of first-team opportunities, admits the relentless form of his league leaders and a series of tight matches have made it difficult to give him minutes.

"Naby had injuries, the team is in really good shape, so then do you change?," said Klopp.

"We are not flying, it's not like we won all of the games 4-0, or 5-0, so we had to bring on a player who helps us with defending set-pieces.

"Then Naby is sitting outside thinking, 'why don't I play?' I get all that.

"So we stayed in contact, we talked and we spoke a lot about it.

"But in the end of course a player needs to have this evidence that the manager still believes in you. I was never in doubt about that."

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