Jurgen Klopp ‘angry’ over fixture scheduling but Liverpool manager has answer to his problem

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Liverpool have seven Premier League games remaining but could have up to 11 crucial fixtures if they are to continue in both the FA Cup and Champions League.

Jurgen Klopp is far from the biggest admirer of the English football calendar.

The Liverpool manager has often bemoaned the demand placed on players during a campaign, regularly taking aim at the dreaded post-Europe Saturday 12.30 kick-off spot as well as the packed festive schedule.

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Speaking on Tuesday ahead of their Champions League quarter-final second-leg draw with Benfica, Klopp once again lamented BT Sport for deciding to air their game at Newcastle - on April 30, inbetween their semi-final legs against Villareal - in that 12.30 slot.

“You cannot go for four trophies, you are part of four competitions and we are thankfully good enough this year not to go out early,” Klopp said. “But the fixture list we have now is [about] getting through. We play [on Wednesday] and that is the only thing I am concerned about.

“It’s Benfica, then we play Saturday against Manchester City because of the success we’ve had. That would usually have been Aston Villa, it might have been Saturday or Sunday, I don’t know.

“Then we play Manchester United and Everton and then if we get through [against Benfica], we have a semi-final and then BT and the Premier League thought they would give us Newcastle away at 12.30pm!

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“All these things; the schedule and how people use the fame at the moment [thinking] ‘Liverpool is hot at the moment’ I couldn’t care less. I know I am angry, but it’s just not OK.”

Klopp has reason to be concerned, between Wednesday’s game against Benfica and the end of May - just six-and-a-half weeks away - there’s every chance Liverpool could have 11 games to tick off.

That’s seven crucial Premier League games - with any point dropped likely to end the title race - an FA Cup semi-final and possible final, a two-legged Champions League semi-final and then the potential final all in 44 days - an average of one game every four days.

It means that every hour of recovery can make a huge difference, so what seems insignificant could well have a huge difference - for reference, Manchester City travel to Leeds on the same Saturday, with kick-off at 17.30.

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It is unfortunately a burden Liverpool will have to deal with: a consequence of being one of the best teams in the world is that you often make it to the latter stages of tournaments, which unavoidably means more football towards the end of the season.

But Klopp already has the key to solve the problem.

Rotation key for the final sprint

If Liverpool are to prove successful in all four active competitions, Jurgen Klopp has to rotate.

The Reds have been relatively fortunate with injuries this campaign, with the spine of the team - Allison, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah - pretty much issue free.

The signings of Ibrahima Konate and Luis Diaz, the increase in experience of Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott and the consistency of that spine means the Reds have one of the strongest and deepest squads in Europe.

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And while Klopp has done well in key moments to rotate the team, he needs to do so even more over the coming weeks if those key players are to stay both fit and in-form.

The Reds have played 51 games this season, and a core group of 10 have started over 30.

Mohamed Salah has started 37 games this season and featured in 40 but hasn’t scored for Liverpool since last month’s win at Brighton.  Mohamed Salah has started 37 games this season and featured in 40 but hasn’t scored for Liverpool since last month’s win at Brighton.
Mohamed Salah has started 37 games this season and featured in 40 but hasn’t scored for Liverpool since last month’s win at Brighton. | Getty Images

Allison has started 42 and Virgil van Dijk has started 41, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Salah racking up 37 starts each.

But below that core group with over 30 appearances - which also includes the likes of Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip - no player has started more than 18.

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Wednesday’s six-goal thriller against Benfica was a great example of considered rotation. Four of the core group - Allison, Matip, Henderson and Jota - started: that’s one core player in every line through the team.

The other six spots saw a spattering of the rest: Joe Gomez at right-back, Kostas Tsimikas at left-back, James Milner and Keita in midfield and Roberto Firmino upfront. Looking at the teamsheet it was still a top-level team, that should still beat most Premier League opposition.

Which should give those who need it most the rest they need to Saturday’s huge FA Cup clash.

None more so than Salah, who hasn’t scored for over a month and looks worringly out of sorts. He had started every Champions League game before Wednesday and it was starting to show, but after coming on with only half an hour against Benfica the Egyptian should be raring to go come Saturday.

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Klopp is justified in his anger at the schedule but he also has to understand that this is what sets great teams apart from good teams: the ability to rotate and adapt and compete in every competition.

He has all the tools for a memorable season at his disposal, he just needs to use them.

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