Klopp must keep faith with Sturridge
Klopp must trust his chief striker in do-or-die mission
SEMI-FINAL, 2ND LEG
LIVERPOOL v VILLARREAL
(Tomorrow, 3.05am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
- Villarreal lead 1-0 after first leg
Ditched at the Estadio El Madrigal, Daniel Sturridge must be deployed at Anfield tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Juergen Klopp ignored Liverpool's most prolific striker last week in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final clash with Villarreal and it proved costly as the toothless Reds were stunnned by an Adrian Lopez late strike.
Not even those impressive scoring statistics of the 26-year-old could convince the German that Sturridge is too important to the team to be sacrificed over perceived tactical demands.
In doing so, Klopp proved that he is his own man and is not afraid to make tough choices.
But Liverpool lost 1-0 in Spain to an injury-time goal.
Klopp copped some heat, in particular over his omission of Sturridge.
Villarreal were there to be taken, but the Reds didn't have the firepower to take advantage.
Come tomorrow morning, Klopp can't make the same mistake of not placing his faith in his chief striker in the do-or-die mission.
Liverpool's lack of an away goal to take into the return fixture counts heavily against them, as Bayern Munich found out against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League yesterday morning.
Klopp must resist the temptation to again start the industrious Roberto Firmino up front as he did last week.
The Brazilian possesses superb passing ability, wonderful touches and, most crucially, a willingness to run himself ragged that the manager clearly admires.
But he is an attacking midfielder, not quite cut from the same cloth as Sturridge.
The England international is a natural-born predator built for the kill.
He sniffs around for signs of fear, and circles his prey relentlessly until he finds the weakness in the herd.
He is a sublime, instinctive finisher with the ability to catch defenders off guard, be it via the unexpected volley on the turn or the spontaneous toe-poke.
He possesses all the qualities Liverpool need in a game they need to win, and perhaps also need to win big.
Should Villarreal find the net at Anfield, the hosts will find themselves needing three in reply to overturn the deficit. Four, if the Yellow Submarine score twice.
Sturridge is tailor-made for the job.
When fit, he seldom disappoints, as his 51 goals from 89 Liverpool appearances attest to.
His 11 goals from just 16 starts this season are evidence that he is still the best striker the Reds have at their disposal.
Klopp insisted that he left out Sturridge in the first leg to achieve stability in the system he had put in place.
Perhaps Sturridge's biggest snub last week stemmed not from the fact that he didn't start.
It was the fact that his manager picked Christian Benteke, a striker deemed to have no future at Liverpool, over him for a late substitution that rubbed salt into the wound.
Klopp explained that Benteke was preferred because of defensive reasons.
Tomorrow morning, there is no reason to defend any more.
Sturridge, who has not started any of his club's last three European fixtures, must be unleashed.
With the support of Firmino and Philippe Coutinho from behind, the trio will test Villarreal's resolve to the limit.
Klopp had promised that even if Liverpool go out of the competition, they will do so "kicking and screaming".
That kicking and screaming had better not come from Sturridge on his own bench.
No pressure, says klopp
It is a must-win game for Juergen Klopp.
But the Liverpool manager is not feeling the pressure ahead of the second leg of their Europa League semi-final against Villarreal tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
At his pre-match press conference yesterday, Klopp acknowledged that "the whole Liverpool world" would be watching his side and is looking to evoke their passion.
"We have 95 minutes between now and saying congratulations to whoever," he said.
"This game is a big opportunity in a difficult season for Liverpool.
"It's the main thing of football, these moments when you really know we're all together.
"Not only the crowd in the stadium, but also those at home.
"It's a moment - I don't want to make it too big - but it's a moment for the whole Liverpool world.
"Everyone will watch it. Everybody will be involved with Liverpool.
"There's absolutely no pressure. I'm happy about the opportunity."
Klopp believes seven months of evolution since his arrival have turned around Liverpool's season.
Liverpool have battled inconsistency since Klopp's appointment as they adjust to his methods, but he reckons they have the quality required to reach the final, despite carrying a 1-0 deficit from the first leg
"In October, Liverpool changed their manager. That's not the sign of a perfect situation," said the German, who replaced Brendan Rodgers seven months ago.
"Something went wrong before then. After the change, we didn't change everything immediately, we developed.
"We still had problems, injuries. We played sometimes really good, sometimes not that good, but only two really bad games - Watford and Swansea.
"This team have built consistency step by step, this good shape and good moment we should use.
"These players gave me a lot of positive signs about their qualities and quality is always potential plus talent plus attitude. That is really good.
"If we play our best, then we can go to the final."
Reds defender Dejan Lovren (left) stressed the need to play clever football against Villarreal, but knows that it will be a tough task.
"It will be a difficult game," he said.
"Villarreal are a really compact team, with good individual players - a really counter-attacking team.
"It would be a dream come true (to reach the final) - for me, the fans, for everyone.
"We can save this season with the final. But in the end we still have to play Villarreal." - Wire Services.