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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Liverpool-Ajax | Klopp on Champions League, injuries, poor form and respect for the late Queen

Speaking ahead his team’s Game 2 in Champions League Group A, Jürgen Klopp says he expects a reaction to the debacle against Napoli.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: (THE SUN OUT. THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool at the Liverpool Press Conference at Anfield on September 12, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
John PowellGetty

Liverpool have been one of the dominant forces in European football over recent years and last season Jürgen Klopp’s team came closer than anyone has to the unprecedented quadruple. The start of this campaign, however, has been rather different, dropping unexpected points in the Premier League, losing even to Manchester United, before being dismantled in the opening Champions League game against Serie A leaders Napoli.

Ahead of the second European group game, Ajax the visitors to Anfield on Tuesday night, the German manager fielded questions from the gathered media, with the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II on the minds of many.

Klopp on Liverpool fans respecting the Queen

Liverpool requested the chance to hold a minute’s silence as a tribute to the late Queen before the Ajax kick-off, and Klopp expects the home fans to observe it perfectly. He also admitted that he and the players were keen to fulfil the weekend fixture against Wolves but, after all games were postponed by the Premier League, understood the rationale. He also highlighted his pride at how Reds fans respected rival player Cristiano Ronaldo’s family grievance last season.

“Did I want to play the Wolves game? Yes, but of course now in a week now with Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, it would have been tough on everyone anyway, coming back Thursday afternoon [after Napoli game] and stuff like this. But yes, we would have wanted to play.

“For the reasons we all know it didn’t happen and of course we respect that. And now we tried to use the time for analysis and training which made absolute sense after the game we had in Napoli.

“I think [a minute’s silence] is the right thing to do, but I don’t think that our people need any kind of advice from me for showing respect. There are plenty of times when people have shown exactly the right kind of respect.

“One example, and it surprised me, which I was really proud of at that moment, was last season when we played Manchester United and there was a very sad situation around Cristiano Ronaldo’s family. For me it is clear, that is what we have to do, so that is it.”

Klopp on Champions League form

After their 4-1 Champions League defeat to Napoli -- one he described as “worst game we played since I was here” -- Klopp said a return to positive consistency in performances was needed.

“We had a meeting, showed them the situations and I didn’t have to say a lot, the players know. We brought ourselves to this situation. We had obvious football problems which were from misjudgments. Everyone wanted to sort it by themselves, there was no structure.

“We had four or five days now of absolute truth, not to knock the players down, just to make sure where we are now. This is the starting point for us to sort the problems together on the pitch, no pointing at each other.”

Klopp on Liverpool injuries and Ajax

With Liverpool full back Andy Robertson now expected to be out injured until after the international break, and issues continuing with the likes of Curtis Jones, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Klopp has choices to make.

“The expected return date is somewhere in October,” he said about the Scot. “With Ox it’s the same. That’s why the two boys are not in the Champions League squad.”

Klopp praised Alfred Schreuder’s side for dealing with the loss of several key players from last season in the transfer window, with Ajax having won all their league games thus far and beating Rangers in their opening UCL group game.

Ajax are in the Champions League and they belong there. Are they the strongest team in the competition? I haven’t seen the rest yet,” Klopp said. “We have to show a reaction but that doesn’t guarantee a result against Ajax. They’ve won all their games this season, they’ve had a massive rebuild but they’re doing a really good job.

“We have not been consistent enough this season and we have to show that again. And that always starts with defending better.”

Klopp on the Queen

Returning to the topic that has dominated British news, and much of that around the world, in recent days, Klopp was asked to sum up his feelings about the late Queen.

“I am 55 years old and she is the only Queen of England that I have ever known. I didn’t know her but you can see she was a really warm, nice, loved lady and that is what you need to know.

“It is not about what I think but people who are or felt much closer to her, I respect their grief a lot and that is why I will show my respect tomorrow night with a minute’s silence if it goes through.”