Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits they have to improve the defensive side of their game but says a lack of clean sheets is not down to a more attacking approach.
In five matches this season they have scored 15 goals and conceded five in the Premier League, with just one clean sheet – at Burnley last month – in eight matches in all competitions this season.
At the same stage last season the Reds had scored 11 and conceded just two, having opened the league campaign with three successive clean sheets.
They are, however, better off as they currently have a five-point lead, the biggest the Premier League has seen at this early point of the season, having been second to Manchester City on goal difference this time last year.
What cost them the title in their neck-and-neck race with Pep Guardiola’s side was the number of draws (seven compared to City’s two) but Klopp insists they have not sought to rectify that this time around with a more adventurous approach.
“There is no difference. We didn’t focus more on defensive or offensive things,” he said.
“The goals have been strange. There would have been a second clean sheet at Southampton if we didn’t concede that goal (down to an error by second-choice goalkeeper Adrian) would have been a clean sheet, there could have been clean sheets in other games.
“It’s not exactly as we want but we don’t collect clean sheets, we want to win football games.
“It is still early in the season, we have to improve and develop. But it’s not because we have a different approach to last year.”
Part of the reason for a lack of clean sheets could be attributed to the absence of Alisson Becker.
The first-choice goalkeeper won the golden glove last season for 21 clean sheets but the Brazil international has been absent since sustaining a calf injury 39 minutes into their opening league match.
But Klopp has had some encouraging news on his fitness and that of midfielder Naby Keita, who has been sidelined by a groin problem since the European Super Cup victory over Sunday’s opponents Chelsea on August 14.
“Alisson is making big progress. A proper session yesterday with (goalkeeping coach) John Achterberg,” said the Reds boss.
“Not in team training yet, and we take it day by day. We will see. Too early to say. Medical department will tell me.”
On Keita he added: “Naby Keita is back in training with the team. Today is first time with the team.”
However, striker Divock Origi is unlikely to feature at Stamford Bridge after an ankle injury in last week’s win over Newcastle.
“Div, we have to see day by day, that’s how it was from the first day – how can he deal with the pain and stuff like that,” added the Liverpool boss.
“It is pretty early, so I don’t know exactly what the medical department will tell me (today) about that case.
“I think it’s unlikely but why should I rule him out? But it’s unlikely.”
Injuries to Manchester City defenders John Stones and Aymeric Laporte has left them with just one fit centre-back in Nicolas Otemendi and potentially handed a crucial advantage to Liverpool early in the campaign.
Klopp was asked whether worries about an injury to Virgil Van Dijk, UEFA player of the year and the Reds’ key defensive figure, kept him awake at night.
“Not yet. That is the reason why we have four centre-halves,” said Klopp.
“It is not easy for the in-the-moment number four not playing but if something happens, like last year a couple of things happened and then you end up with one centre-half and a defensive midfielder like against Bayern at home with Fabinho and Joel (Matip) as centre-halves.
“That can happen, it was unlucky, but you cannot think about injuries before you have an injury. We all need luck to be really successful.”
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Mauricio Pochettino says every player at Tottenham is aware of the need to improve if they are to compete for big things this season.
Spurs let a two-goal lead slip away to Olympiacos on Wednesday night and had to settle for a 2-2 draw in a case of deja vu after an identical scenario at Arsenal earlier this month.
Harry Kane admitted he could understand the frustration of his manager, saying: “He’s been here for six years now and we’re still making similar mistakes to the ones we were in his first year.”
Pochettino, speaking ahead of Saturday’s Premier League match at Leicester, said: “I cannot talk about things I didn’t hear. We need to be careful and my responsibility as a manager is to be careful.
“After the game, how you translate to me and the words or sentences are sometimes not in maybe the way he wanted to express or translate and that is why I will never judge the words of player after the game or in interview – never.
“They are so free to talk in the way they want to talk, but most important is we share the same opinion in private that we need to improve and I think all the players in the squad feel the same that we need to improve if we are to be a contender for big things.”
After the match in Greece, Pochettino talked about how training maybe needed to be “psychologically harder” but appeared to back track on this when looking ahead to a trip to King Power.
He added: “(It) Depends how the people took my words, I never said that, that doesn’t mean we are going to run more or spend more time at the training centre.
“I think I wanted to say to keep the level we showed, the concentration and the focus we showed in the first half of Crystal Palace – that is the challenge to show the rest of the season.”
Tottenham scored four times in the opening 45 minutes of last weekend’s 4-0 victory at home to Roy Hodgson’s side to put an inconsistent first month of the campaign behind them.
Yet a sluggish start in Athens against Olympiacos suggested Spurs are not quite back to their best.
Leicester, who hold ambitions of breaking into the Premier League top six, will look to back up those claims in the lunchtime kick-off, especially given the lack of preparation Tottenham have had.
Pochettino’s players only returned to Hotspur Way at four in the morning after a flight back from Greece, but he warned: “We cannot think about that.
“We need to be ready to compete on Saturday. We cannot change and only we can affect in a negative or positive way if we talk too much in one or another way.
“I prefer to talk positive. We have a big squad and we will assess the players and I hope to have a very good game and of course it will not be an excuse.
“What happens, happens on Saturday morning. We need to approach the game in our best condition and we have time to recover and I will tell you after the game if I am happy or not and if we suffer with this travelling.”
Spurs will be without Giovani Lo Celso (hip) and Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring) for the clash with Brendan Rodgers’ side.
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Bernardo Silva is confident Manchester City will ride through their defensive injury woes.
The back-to-back Premier League champions have just one fit senior specialist centre-back in Nicolas Otamendi after John Stones joined long-term injury victim Aymeric Laporte on the sidelines this week.
The absence of the pair has highlighted manager Pep Guardiola’s lack of cover in the position after former captain Vincent Kompany left without being replaced at the end of last season.
Midfielder Fernandinho, who had been preparing for such an eventuality since the summer, filled in as a makeshift defender and looked comfortable in Wednesday’s 3-0 Champions League win at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Yet with City now frequently in action midweek as well as at weekends, there are doubts the 34-year-old will be able to start every game.
Coming after last weekend’s surprise error-ridden defeat at Norwich, City have received some rare criticism in recent days – but Silva is taking no notice.
“People can criticise and say what they want,” the Portuguese said. “We don’t need to prove anything to anyone after what we’ve done the last two seasons. We’re relaxed.
“Of course we’re not happy because we want to do better and we know losing against Norwich isn’t ideal, but all teams have good and bad moments. It’s impossible to stay three seasons, only with good moments.
“Sometimes you will have bad moments and it’s the way you react to those bad moments that show how good a team you are and that’s what we’ll try to do. Every time we’ve had bad moments in the past we’ve always reacted well, and that’s what we’ll try to do again.”
Shakhtar did not provide a stern test of City’s unfamiliar Fernandinho-Otamendi centre-half pairing in their Group C encounter in Kharkiv. Goals from Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus ensured City won comfortably as they visited the Metalist Stadium for a third year in succession.
City looked good in attack with Kevin De Bruyne also prominent but their efficiency at that end of the pitch is not in question. It is at the back where they quickly need to find a winning formula and Silva felt Fernandinho looked the part.
He said: “We saw last season that he’s able to play in that position. He’s very intelligent and when you understand the game and you’re intelligent like he is, it’s easy.”
Gundogan was also impressed by the performance of the Brazilian and expects him to play a critical role in the weeks ahead.
The German said: “He’s going to be massively important there. He’s vital now.
“We have two defenders out at the moment and so in the next games we will need Dinho even more.
“It’s going to be vital to stay stable at the back, then up front we’re always able to score.”
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