Jürgen Klopp has accused the Premier League and TV companies of throwing “a stick between the legs” of Liverpool’s quadruple chase with a fixture schedule that he claims no other league in the world would impose.
Liverpool are firm favourites to reach the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday when they take a 3-1 lead into their quarter-final second leg against Benfica at Anfield. Klopp's team then face Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday followed by home league games against Manchester United and Everton.
But it is the early kick-off away at Newcastle on Saturday, April 30th, that falls between dates for the first and second legs of the Champions League semi-finals, that has exasperated Klopp. The Liverpool manager believes the workload explains why no English club have won a quadruple before.
“We are part of four competitions, and thankfully we are good enough this year not to go out early, but the fixture list we have now, let’s get through it,” Klopp said.
“The only game I am concerned about is Benfica. Because of the success we had so far we play Saturday against City, but it could have been Aston Villa [in the Premier League]. Then we play United, then we play Everton. Then, if we get through tomorrow, we have a semi-final and BT and the Premier League thought we should have Newcastle away at 12.30.
“The schedule, and how people use the fame in the moment – Liverpool is hot and everyone wants to see them – they couldn’t care less, the TV stations. It’s just not okay.
“If we play a Champions League semi-final, find me another league in the world and another broadcaster who would put the one team in the semi-finals – it might be two or three English teams – on at 12.30. It’s like: ‘Throw them a little stick between the legs!’ What? What are you doing? Why would you do that? That’s why it’s so difficult, that’s why it never happens, because nobody cares.
“It’s unbelievably difficult. We are still in three competitions and we play City; you saw how difficult that was. How could I sit here now and think about other cups? We play Benfica tomorrow and how can I sit here thinking about winning the Champions League? I don’t. We just try to squeeze everything out to stay as long in the competition as somehow possible and then be there in the final, hopefully, or in the league to make the last decisive step.”
From the start of the next television broadcasting deal BT Sport will continue to have a 12.30pm Saturday game but will reschedule it to 7.45pm if it involves a team playing in Europe on the previous Wednesday.
The Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson says the schedule is “crazy” but claims the squad can handle potentially 13 more matches this season in the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup. “At this level we need to be prepared for that and we are,” the Brazil international said. “We have a great fitness staff and we are training every day for that. We have the targets, which is achieving all the finals, playing all the games – as many games as it’s possible for us in the season – so we want to win everything. We are ready for that.
“Of course it is not easy, of course we sometimes feel tired, but you need to put in your mind that you have enough energy to deal with every challenge. We want to be in every match. If you play those matches you feel tired and you think: ‘It’s a crazy schedule.’ But we are focused on our goals and now that is Benfica.”
Klopp said he would make changes in response to the intense 2-2 draw at City on Sunday, not with their FA Cup semi-final in mind, and expects Benfica to throw everything at Liverpool. “I would go for it, full throttle,” he said of attempting to overturn a 3-1 deficit.
“I would try to put us under pressure, score early, and if not try to score a bit later. That’s what we expect. Benfica respected us before, but during the game I am pretty sure they felt that they were close here and there. But now, bad news for Benfica, it’s Anfield. They don’t only play against us, they play against the whole crowd.” – Guardian