Jürgen Klopp has described Liverpool’s 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa as “like a knock to the middle of the face” in terms of the way it may affect the rest of the season.
“We certainly won’t forget it,” the Liverpool manager said, as he prepared his players for Saturday’s Merseyside derby against unbeaten Everton. “I’m not sure we needed a punch in the face to wake us up and make us look at ourselves, but if it does have that effect it could be the most important result of the season.”
Liverpool fell to their heaviest Premier League defeat at an inopportune time too, having had to wait two weeks because of the international break for a chance to get it out of their system. “We lost our last game before the break and Everton won theirs, but we will have to wait and see whether what happened a fortnight ago has any effect on the derby,” Klopp said. “You normally like to win the game before the international break, because it makes the break easier. It doesn’t necessarily make the next game easier, you still have to approach it in the right way.”
Klopp knows he is not alone this season in being on the wrong end of an embarrassing scoreline. Both Manchester clubs have conceded five or more in unexpected defeats and the Liverpool manager is among those tempted to believe empty stadiums may be part of the reason for the rush of goals. Players accustomed to performing in front of large crowds, the theory goes, are not quite as switched-on without them. Subconsciously or otherwise, they find it hard to achieve the same level of concentration.
“There have been some crazy scores and it looks like that could be the reason,” Klopp said. “Nothing else has changed but I don’t want to use it as an excuse. In our last match one team scored seven goals and the other only two, so if the absence of fans in the stadium is to blame it seems only one side suffered from it.”
While Liverpool expect to have Sadio Mané and Thiago Alcântara back in contention after a period of Covid-19 enforced quarantine, Naby Keïta is self-isolating and Alisson will miss the derby with a shoulder injury. Klopp has overseen seven wins and four draws in his 11 derbies, though he acknowledges Everton will present a tough challenge.
“We always respect them but this season they look especially good,” he said. “You don’t need to be in the opposite dugout to see that Carlo [Ancelotti] is a sensational manager and that Everton have done some good transfer business.”
On Friday Liverpool sent three players on loan to EFL clubs: Harvey Elliott to Blackburn, Harry Wilson to Cardiff and Ben Woodburn to Blackpool.