Jurgen Klopp is ready to rein in Liverpool鈥檚 attacking instincts in a bid to ensure they grind out the results required to bring Champions League football back to Anfield.
The third placed Reds go into Wednesday night鈥檚 home clash with Bournemouth as the Premier League鈥檚 top scorers but the manager says the absence of key names may lead to a change of approach during the final eight matches.
Sadio Mane鈥檚 potentially season-ending knee injury has added to Klopp鈥檚 problems on the back of losing Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. With Liverpool鈥檚 potency dented, Klopp knows that keeping teams out at the other end is even more important.
鈥淲e only have to adapt,?Klopp said.
鈥淭hat鈥檚 the thing we have to do. We鈥檒l choose a line-up to make them as strong, compact and as ugly to play as possible.
鈥淵es, we have a few injuries, yes, it doesn鈥檛 make our lives easier, but teams around us could mention the same thing. We will still have a very good line up and we need to fight for each of these last 24 points.
鈥淚t鈥檚 the part of the season when decisions will be made about where we will finish. It鈥檚 not about playing the best football in the world, it鈥檚 about getting results.
鈥淲e have to think about what is the right way to play these games. Is it our job to dominate Bournemouth or whoever we face in the next few weeks or is it our job to get the best result for us? We have to think about defending all together and making life as difficult as possible for our opponents.?/p>
It was Liverpool鈥檚 gung-ho style which cost them against Bournemouth back in December. They led 3-1 with 15 minutes remaining but left themselves exposed defensively and handed the Cherries a lifeline.
The Reds capitulated in the closing stages and lost 4-3 - having been guilty of chasing greater reward at a time when they should have been holding on to what they had.
鈥淭he Bournemouth game was very good from my side until a specific point in the game. It changed, kind of spectacularly,?Klopp said.
鈥淥ne situation changed the game and gave it a different direction. We felt too confident in a specific moment and Bournemouth thought there was still a chance.
鈥淚n games like this you learn the hard way. They鈥檙e on a good run, they played a very good second half against Southampton. It鈥檚 impressive what Eddie Howe is doing. They have 34 points. They are still fighting for the league. Neither team has any points to waste.?/p>
Burnley, Hull, Swansea and Leicester - who all sit in the bottom half of the table - have also inflicted defeats on Klopp鈥檚 men this season. But the Reds boss is adamant that there鈥檚 not an attitude problem when his players come up against the lower teams.
鈥淵ou can鈥檛 compare the Bournemouth game to the others. We scored good goals and had other really good chances,?he said.
鈥淲e鈥檝e had other games where we鈥檝e struggled to create chances. You can鈥檛 compare Hull away and Bournemouth away. Two completely different games. It鈥檚 not about not respecting the other team.
鈥淲e lost to Bournemouth, we beat Stoke - in your words, not mine, 鈥榳eaker sides鈥? After Stoke this weekend we play West Brom, who we beat at home. They are not famous for being the most offensive team but we scored fantastic goals. Our results against these teams in the first half of the season was not too bad.
鈥淚f we had no problems then we would have 70 points. We shouldn鈥檛 think about this. We should think about how we can defend, not how dominant we can be. Maybe we can surprise one of the other teams with good organisation, good defending, good counter-attacks. Why not??/p>
Klopp also refutes suggestions that Liverpool have a problem when it comes to breaking down teams who simply shut up shop.
鈥淭he best plan in the world is only as good as the players,?he added. 鈥淟ook at the goals we scored against Everton. Perfect decision by Sadio Mane, Roberto (Firmino) took the defence here, Phil (Coutinho) took the rest of the defence in another direction. Sadio took the ball and finished.
鈥淚t鈥檚 about doing the right things in the right moments, and the boys have done that in a lot of games. We are not predictable. No team in the world doesn鈥檛 struggle against teams who just defend, otherwise Barcelona would win each game 8-0.?/p>
Despite his high-profile absentees, Klopp believes Liverpool are well placed to kick on and secure a top-four finish. That鈥檚 based on his belief in the talent at his disposal rather than the fact that Liverpool don鈥檛 have to face any top-seven opposition.
鈥淚f you want to go to the Champions League, you have to play very good,?he said.
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鈥淏ut this idea of weaker teams, I just never see a situation to talk about weaker teams. The league only tells you what was until now. And then you have the opportunity, which we would like to use.
鈥淚 don鈥檛 care where they are. I don鈥檛 care who they are. We want to play them, and we want to cause them as many difficulties as possible. That鈥檚 the right of the other teams also.
鈥淚f we miss two or three offensive options, we have to adapt to it. We cannot always say that was because of Sadio.
鈥淚n the Premier League, the funny thing is that there are a minimum of six teams who are good enough for the Champions League, but only four will be in.
鈥淣ever in the season did I think that somebody would make us a present at the end of the season and say: 鈥楽urprise! You鈥檙e going to play in the Champions League next year.?/p>
鈥淲e have to fight for it. We have to prove the quality. That鈥檚 no problem for me. I never saw it differently.?/p>