Liverpool out to “strike back” against Hazard and Chelsea

FILE PHOTO - Soccer Football - Premier League - Burnley vs Liverpool - Turf Moor, Burnley, Britain - January 1, 2018 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp before the match Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
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LIVERPOOL (Reuters) – Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp says his side are itching to “strike back” at Chelsea following their League Cup defeat against the Blues as they seek the ideal response by extending their perfect start to the Premier League season on Saturday.

Yet the Reds’ manager also acknowledged on Friday that they would have to defend better in the visit to Stamford Bridge to stop Eden Hazard reprising the sort of solo brilliance that propelled Chelsea to victory at Anfield on Wednesday.

“It’s not cool, it’s not what you want because it’s not what we’re going for, but I don’t think it’s impacted the mood,” said Klopp, reflecting on Chelsea’s 2-1 win which was secured with Hazard’s late virtuoso effort.

“We’ve had two days to fight back on track and I’d say that’s worked. For sure, there’s added motivation. We want to strike back, it’s sport. Fighting back is a duty in sport.

“It will be tough, it will be intense. It’s a big one, Chelsea v Liverpool, but our best preparation was the Wednesday game. We’ll try to use our information from that match to do better.”

Wednesday’s loss was Liverpool’s first blemish after a spotless start to the season which had seen them open up a two-point lead over unbeaten Chelsea at the top of the league after six straight wins. They also beat Paris St Germain in the Champions League.

Liverpool had been on top and leading Chelsea 1-0 when undone by an Emerson equaliser and then one of the goals of the season from Hazard, who cut inside from the right flank, sliced through Liverpool’s defence and fired in from a narrow angle.

It was a great goal but one which Klopp felt should have been cut out at source by Liverpool’s rearguard.

“We all know we could have defended that goal he scored. Yes, he did well but we had three challenges. We have to make sure we close the right spaces… No player is not defendable.”

Yet Hazard, in current form, can make their life a torment again. “A couple of years ago, we played Chelsea when they had (Diego) Costa and Hazard and it felt like ‘wow, we can defend all of them — but not him.’

“Eden Hazard is a special player but I didn’t need Wednesday’s game to know that; it was already clear before.”

Klopp’s main concern is the fitness of his defensive lynchpin Virgil van Dijk, who was injured in the previous league game against Southampton and missed the midweek match.

Asked if the Dutchman would play, Klopp said: “We have to wait, he didn’t train with the team so far. If Virgil is fit, he plays.”