Jurgen Klopp has claimed the fixture list was a “crime” as he jumped to the defence of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Manchester United fielded a weakened team against Leicester and suffered a defeat that means it is unlikely Liverpool will qualify for the Champions League.
Liverpool are likely to face a full-strength United side on Thursday after Solskjaer made 10 changes for Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat, which leaves Leicester nine points ahead of Klopp’s side, but the German says his team will be to blame if they do not finish in the top four.
Klopp insisted he would have adopted the same approach as Solskjaer as he questioned why, instead of moving Liverpool’s Sunday clash with West Bromwich Albion so they could go to Old Trafford this weekend, United were given three games in five days after the postponement of their original match against the 2020 champions.
“It was the line-up I expected,” the Liverpool manager said. “To play Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday is a crime but that is not the fault of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the players. My question to myself was: Would I have done the same? Yes, you have to.
“I am not the guy doing the schedule but the weekend after is a weekend off for United. The explanation from the Premier League was that no other team should suffer for the things that happened in Manchester and that didn’t work out pretty well: a little bit [for] West Ham, a little bit [for] Liverpool. But if we don’t go to the Champions League, it is not the fault of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it is our fault.
“Our season was really difficult but we know we should have five or six points [more] even with the injuries we have and then we would be closer to the Champions League spots. Now we need help from other teams.”
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In particular, Klopp rued late equalisers his team have conceded to Leeds and Newcastle in recent weeks. He added: “We are not that bad in the form table but there were two draws where we lost the game in the last minute and that felt really harsh. We could never get that feeling of a winning streak.”
Virgil van Dijk has been ruled out of Euro 2020 with a cruciate ligament injury. While Holland manager Frank de Boer had hoped to pick his captain, Klopp insisted it was always improbable the defender would be fit in time.
“With Virgil, it is one of the most serious injuries you can get,” he said. “I don’t know how it came up he has a chance for the Euros. The injury he has has an average of 11 months [to come back]. It happened in October so that is September. I never wanted to cut the Euros off but in common sense there is no chance.”
Klopp said Jordan Henderson, who has been out since February with a groin problem, is a doubt for England and will not play again for Liverpool this season.
“Hendo's not out yet,” he said. “That is a decision between Gareth [Southgate] and Hendo but I think there is a chance, for sure.”
Klopp was quick to congratulate Manchester City for winning their third Premier League title in four years.
He texted both Pep Guardiola and his former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan on Tuesday and said: “What they achieved so far is exceptional. Five titles in 10 years: when you bring together financial sources and football knowledge you have a good chance to create something special. City have an incredible squad and the best manager in the world and that is an incredible recipe.”