Liverpool must forget semi-final failures, insists Klopp

Coach wants team focusing on Stoke clash, not prospect of facing Everton in final

Jürgen Klopp: “Going to Wembley is the best thing you can do in football.” Photograph:  Clive Mason/Getty Images

Jürgen Klopp: “Going to Wembley is the best thing you can do in football.” Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

 

Jürgen Klopp has described a cup final appearance at Wembley as the “best thing you can do in football” but said the prospect of an all-Merseyside contest for the League Cup cannot distract Liverpool from their task against Stoke City.

Liverpool take a 1-0 lead over Mark Hughes’s team into tonight’s semi-final second leg at Anfield with the eight-times winners looking to enhance a proud record in the competition. Liverpool have never lost at home in a League Cup semi-final, have never lost a cup tie against Stoke – going on to win the trophy after their last three meetings in the competition – and Klopp has never lost a semi-final as a manager.

Everton also hold a narrow advantage in their semi-final against Manchester City but, while appreciating the welcome he has received from Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals, Klopp insists the threat of Stoke overrides any thoughts of a cup final derby next month.

The Liverpool manager, who led Borussia Dortmund to the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley, said: “Until now when I’ve met an Evertonian nobody has knocked me, nobody has kicked me, nothing has happened. It has always been nice. It is one of the best rivalries in world football because in a lot of things we are together and in the sport we are against. That is cool, that is how it should be.

Biggest issue

“Tomorrow is one target – go to the final. Reaching a final is great but it only matters when you win it. You should celebrate it more in your mind than in the real world but it’s football and you should not waste opportunities to win something.”

Liverpool reached the semi-final of both domestic cup competitions last season under Brendan Rodgers only to lose to Chelsea in the League Cup and Aston Villa in the FA Cup. Rodgers’s successor claims there should be no psychological burden from those near-misses.

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“The other option is you ignore it completely and say, ‘It was only one time’ or, in last season’s case, two times. Or you prepare yourself for a semi-final and that’s what we want to do. Don’t think too much about the past. It doesn’t help to think about these things.

“Last year I don’t know why but some things went wrong in the semi-finals. The only thing that stays in the mind is that we lost. We should be fully focused on this game. That’s the only way to win it. This is a different team, a different situation, a different manager and different opponents . . .”

Klopp held “intensive” talks with his players after Saturday’s remarkable 5-4 win at Norwich City, specifically to address their persistent failings when defending set pieces. Liverpool have conceded eight goals from corners this season, and 13 goals in total from set pieces, and the manager, who has Dejan Lovren back after a hamstring injury but Nathaniel Clyne doubtful with a knee problem, admitted: “It is not a problem we can ignore.”

The inconsistency in Liverpool’s recent performances, he believes, stems from too many enforced changes in central defence. Klopp said: “The performance of my team is not as surprising to me as you would imagine. Yes, we have been inconsistent but, if you take a few parts out of the game and analyse, you find we have a lot of things that are always there with a similar line-up.

“We defend usually in the right spaces, we play football in the right spaces, we create opportunities in the right spaces, we play good football in the final third . . . ” Guardian Service

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