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Tuesday 18 September 2018

Klopp looks to old 'Pool of talent to drive Reds

EXPECTANT:
Liverpool
manager
Jurgen Klopp Pic: Reuters
EXPECTANT: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp Pic: Reuters

Jurgen Klopp expects his Liverpool old boys to rise to the challenge as new arrivals continue to raise the bar at Anfield.

Klopp enjoyed a busy summer in the transfer market, signing Alisson Becker, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri to increase pressure on places.

Competition in the midfield areas looks particularly fierce, with Keita and Fabinho costing almost £100m combined and the likes of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum all hoping to retain prominent roles.

Keita's debut in the 4-0 win over West Ham last week left pundits purring but Klopp, speaking ahead of tonight's trip to Crystal Palace, sees quality throughout.

"We talk about Naby Keita, that's good, he's new. The world is like that. When it's new it's fantastic," he told the club's official website.

"What you already have (must say) 'yeah, I'm still here too'. James Milner made big steps in the last three years, that's the truth.

Judge

"I don't want to judge his career but it feels like it's the best moment of his career.

"Gini Wijnaldum, no one speaks about him. He can play the 'six' and the 'eight' in the way I don't know many players can. They don't talk about him.

"We only spoke about these three but Fabinho didn't play a minute so far and we expect big things from him. Adam Lallana, a long time injured. There's Xherdan Shaqiri too."

At 32, Milner is the oldest of the current group, but having ended last season strongly he turned in a man-of-the-match showing last weekend.

He understands he may no longer be able to bank on a starting place every time but has no intention of slipping to the sidelines.

"I feel very good and very fit - I want to play every single game," Milner said.

"Obviously that's not going to happen, I'm sure, and you need to rotate to be successful with the amount of games we have. With the quality that's in the squad, I'm sure that's going to happen.

"But as long as I'm performing every time I step onto the field and making it as difficult as possible for the manager to leave me out of the side, I can't do any more than that.

"The biggest thing for me is that I want to be successful at Liverpool: to win trophies and for me to be a part of that and contribute to that."

In defence, Joe Gomez will be hoping to continue his partnership with Virgil van Dijk.

The England international will soon come under pressure from the returning Joel Matip, who is expected to make the bench at Selhurst Park, but is finally getting a chance in his preferred central position.

Gomez has been asked to fill in at right-back for most of his Reds career but Ragnar Klavan's departure for Cagliari indicates Klopp now plans to utilise the 21-year-old through the middle.

Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson says Mo Salah will be just as dangerous this season as he was last term.

Heroics

The Crystal Palace boss has warned his Eagles to beware Egypt forward Salah in tonight's Premier League clash at Selhurst Park.

Hodgson, a former Liverpool manager, believes the Reds are ready for a Premier League title tilt under Klopp, and expects Salah to repeat the heroics that catapulted him to 44 goals in 2017-18.

"There's no doubt in my mind that he will be good this season because of the qualities he possesses," said Hodgson.

"But of course for him and his club, people will keep cranking up expectations and that's not a great thing to have to deal with either for the player or the club.

"You're playing against players who cost a lot of money, players who have a very strong pedigree, players whose technical ability is very good, whose physical capacity is good.

"I don't know that you can necessarily stop them for 90 minutes from getting anywhere near your goal - that might be too strong an objective.

"But we hope we can keep them quiet enough for us to get enough of the ball and cause them enough problems to get a result in the game, it really isn't more complicated than that."

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