Jurgen Klopp has told his side to stop believing they always need to ‘play like Liverpool ’ and start making opponents fear them instead.
The Reds boss takes his side to Stoke today, aware it is the classic banana-skin for them – the type of physical contest against set-piece experts they tend to mess up miserably, even without their current crippling injury crisis.
Yet after yet another mid-week disappointment against opponents from the bottom half of the table – when poor defending cost three points against Bournemouth, Klopp insisted he wants his bruised players to reinvent themselves.
Asked if he was able to lift team for such a tough challenge, he said: “That’s easy, because I am confident. The only thing we have to forget, if you want, that we are Liverpool and have to play like Liverpool.
“We have to be a real challenge for them. We can be this. That is how most of the teams are playing against us – to defend as good as possible and then use the situations to create with this.
“That is how we will play, 100 per cent. You can win football games with each line-up. That is what I know, I feel it and for sure will say it in different ways for the next 24 hours.”
Liverpool will be without skipper Jordan Henderson, key performer Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane – who was yesterday ruled out for the season after scans showed he requires a knee op – and crucially, star playmaker Philippe Coutinho.
Even at the best of times they have struggled at the bet365 Stadium, with the 6-1 thrashing from 2015 still a raw memory, but Klopp has looked closely at his players who are still standing, and believes they can still instil fear in their opponents.
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Jurgen Klopp speaks ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Stoke City
“I feel confidence in this moment because I know about football and I know what is possible and I know what it’s not about,” he said.
“Stoke it is clear – tall players if Crouchy is on the pitch. They know also that we are really difficult to play. I don’t think Stoke think ‘oh thank god he is not involved, he is not involved so now it is an easy game for us’. We will be hard challengers.”
Coutinho lasted barely an hour in the midweek game, replaced by a defender after complaining of feeling sick, and he hasn’t even been allowed into the training ground since.
Klopp indicated he will leave it as a late as possible to see if he can be involved at Stoke, but he hinted strongly the Brazilian will be absent, and that could see him spring a surprise by fielding a 3-4-3 line-up.
He also suggested that Daniel Sturridge still isn’t fit enough to start.