Football

Klopp keen to make amends

Reds boss looking for a positive response after FA Cup flop, insists Coutinho not for sale

SEMI-FINAL, FIRST LEG
SOUTHAMPTON LIVERPOOL

Juergen Klopp has urged Liverpool to shrug off their FA Cup flop by delivering a dominant display in tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) League Cup semi-final, first leg against Southampton.

Klopp fielded Liverpool's youngest line-up against Plymouth in the FA Cup third round last Sunday and the raw rookies failed to impress as the fourth-tier minnows easily held on for a goalless draw at Anfield.

Liverpool can still advance in the FA Cup when they face Plymouth in a replay, but that is on the backburner for now as the Reds focus on their other road to Wembley.

After losing to Manchester City on penalties in last season's League Cup final, Liverpool are one step away from a return to Wembley and Klopp will send out a stronger line-up at St Mary's as he looks to get his side back on track.

NOT COMPLACENT

Denying that they were complacent against Plymouth, the Liverpool manager said: "The question I asked this morning in the dressing room was, 'Could we have done better?'. 100 per cent yes with this line-up.

"I don't expect perfection but I have high expectations because I see them every day in training and I was convinced we could play really well.

"I have absolutely no problem with criticism but it was not about underestimating an opponent."

Liverpool are hoping to add to their record haul of eight League Cup trophies by winning the competition for the first time since 2012.

That would also be a first piece of major silverware for Klopp, who arrived on Merseyside in October 2015, after Liverpool's defeats in the League Cup and Europa League finals last term.

But before they start to prepare a space in the Anfield trophy cabinet, Liverpool have to beat Southampton and then Manchester United or Hull, who met in the other semi-final this morning.

Although Klopp's side have lost and drawn on their last two visits to St Mary's, they thrashed Southampton 6-1 at the same venue in the League Cup quarter-finals last season.

"There is no more pressure on us. It is an opportunity. It is always a new day," said Klopp, who welcomes back 24-year-old playmaker Philippe Coutinho after an ankle injury.

"I said to the lads last year it would not be the last final they would be involved in and this is the first chance to prove this."

The availability of Coutinho after a seven-week injury lay-off again puts the focus back on the future of the Brazilian, who is reportedly a target for La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Indicating that Liverpool have no intention of letting go of their prized asset, Klopp said: "It would be nice if big clubs thought like this and forgot about a player completely because he's been injured for five or six weeks.

"But big clubs don't think this way unfortunately.

"But we never had any ideas or any plans or any talks about this because he is our player and there are no other ideas. And nothing has changed."

On Coutinho's chances of featuring against the Saints, he said: "I would say it makes sense for him to be involved against Southampton, in the squad, and we will see what happens there - whether we have to use him or not or whatever.

"If not, we have another three days to prepare him for United."

Meanwhile, unsettled Southampton captain Jose Fonte will miss the match after handing in a transfer request last week.

Said manager Claude Puel: "We will see for the next game but, for the moment and with the situation of Jose, it's important to keep the stability in defence.

"We don't know the future for Jose. It's a difficult situation with the (transfer) window."
- WIRE SERVICES

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