Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp admits mood has changed before facing Chelsea

• FA Cup defeat against Wolves was Liverpool’s third in a row at Anfield
• Chelsea’s Antonio Conte warns his side they will face ‘wounded animal’

“This is still a very good squad, and I am still quite a good manager even though we have lost the last three games,” Jürgen Klopp said defiantly after Liverpool were dumped out of the FA Cup by Wolverhampton Wanderers. “That doesn’t change, but the mood around us has changed. I have absolutely nothing good to say about the last defeat, the only good thing about the game is that it is over. Now we have the chance to win the next game and we must keep faith.”

Full marks to the Liverpool manager for staying positive, but the next game is against Chelsea on Tuesday night. Supporters and maybe even members of Klopp’s squad could be forgiven for wondering how a side beaten at home by Swansea City, Southampton and now Wolves in the past week can possibly take any confidence into a game against the league leaders.

At least the last time Liverpool lost three in a row at home Brendan Rodgers’s team came up short against Manchester United, Arsenal and Udinese. Klopp could have done with using the FA Cup tie to build belief before Chelsea’s visit. Instead he overestimated the abilities of some of his reserve players against relaxed and committed Championship opponents and ended up at the lowest point of his time in England.

Perhaps crisis is too strong a word, yet should Chelsea manage to make it four home defeats in a row Klopp will have presided over a sequence not seen at Anfield since 1923, and all Liverpool would have to play for in the second half of the season would be a Champions League place.

It might have been different, as Klopp pointed out, had Wolves not managed to take the lead in under a minute. Richard Stearman’s opener was the simplest of far‑post nod-ins from Helder Costa’s well-flighted free-kick and the Liverpool defence should undoubtedly have done better, yet if you keep changing your back line uncertainty is what results.

One of several surges upfield from the impressive Costa led to Wolves’ second, when the Benfica loanee easily played in Andreas Weimann behind Joe Gomez. Although Klopp belatedly sent on Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Emre Can in response, the only reply Liverpool could manage was a Divock Origi goal four minutes from time.

Paul Lambert said: “The second goal gave us something to hang on to and I thought we deserved it. I don’t want to keep hearing about Liverpool’s changes because we have a game on Tuesday too and I made six myself. There were four 18-year-olds in the squad and some lads who have hardly played. Liverpool’s squad is incredible, just look at the players they brought on, so it is an extraordinary feat to do what we have done and I think you could see that with the supporters at the end. Scenes like that make it all worthwhile, it’s not all about money and cars and houses.”

Lambert and Klopp know each other through their Borussia Dortmund connections, and the Wolves manager has some sympathy with his friend’s situation. “I know what it’s like to go out of the Cup to underdogs, and it’s not great,” Lambert said. “This is maybe Jürgen’s first spell where he’s having to ride the storm. I think it’s just a blip Liverpool are going through but he’s a top guy and a top manager and it can only make him stronger.”

Antonio Conte, meanwhile, says his Chelsea team will face a “wounded animal” in Liverpool as he urged his players to be wary before the first visit of his career to Anfield. Conte, whose team are eight points clear at the top of the table and 10 ahead of Liverpool in fourth place, described the Merseyside club’s recent home sequence as “strange”. He is braced for a backlash.

“Liverpool are like a wounded animal, for sure,” Conte said. “We must pay great attention because when you arrive after three defeats, you are very dangerous. It’s very strange because when you play at Anfield, it’s very difficult for all the teams. Liverpool now is very tough for us because they had three bad defeats and for this reason, their focus will be very high. We must know this and prepare in the right way.”

Chelsea lost 2-1 at home to Liverpool on 16 September in Conte’s sixth game in charge of the club and he struggled to contain his frustration, saying that his players sorely lacked cohesion. It is a different story now, as he takes them to Anfield on the back of 17 wins from 19 matches in all competitions.

“If you remember, after that game [last September], I said that Liverpool is already a team and Chelsea is not a team,” Conte said. “After four months, a lot of things are changed in my team. We are growing a lot, improving a lot. We have a good confidence. I think that it will be more difficult for Liverpool if you compare the last game at Stamford Bridge with this game at Anfield.

“I’ve never been to Anfield, which is a pity because to play a game as a footballer there is exciting. The atmosphere is fantastic so, I repeat, we must pay great attention. I’m sure that Liverpool is one of the teams that can fight to the end to win the title.”


Paul Wilson and David Hytner

The GuardianTramp

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