Jürgen Klopp says Liverpool are primed for what promises to be one of the most thrilling Premier League climaxes in history, but his team will not ‘go nuts’ in their efforts to secure the prize.
The Liverpool manager insisted desperation to end a 29-year wait for the championship will not impact on strategy and performance, vowing to stand by the principles that have brought his team so far this season.
“The target is to win the game – not to go nuts in the game,” said Klopp. “The way we did it brought us where we are and if someone thinks we should now be 10 points ahead of City I can’t help this person. We are trying for the first time [for the title] and for the first time we are not in a bad position. Let's do what brought us here, plus more intensity if possible. With a positive atmosphere around us, let’s try it and not be this little weak flower.
“We are in a position that I don’t think a lot of people expected with nine games to go. Let’s try everything. Be positive, be lively, be on the front foot, be a real threat, use your power, all your skills and then we will see.”
Klopp came in for some mild criticism after goalless draws against Manchester United and Everton, the suggestion being he could have been more adventurous chasing a winning goal in the final stages of those fixtures.
Naby Keita was left on the bench in both games, and Xherdan Shaqiri has also featured less over the past six weeks. Klopp suggested the analysis of his side’s performances came into the category of "try it, if it doesn’t work, s***, let's try another way”.
“That’s not how I understand the game,” said Klopp. “That is not how it works. That is why I was a bit disappointed in the last press conference because we don’t play Playstation. It is all a sign of being desperate. ‘Let’s try that way. Oh that doesn’t work, let’s try that way’.
“We are good at creating. We're creating much more than last season. In the last few games we didn't score as often, but 10 days ago we played against Watford and we were flying. Everything was brilliant. Then we have a draw and we talk again about finishing. It's all about realising what kind of situation you're in and using it, working it, and stuff like that. Not thinking about how it was weeks ago.
“It is about our situation in training and what is needed individually for the next opponent. That is all that we think about. We don’t stick to one formation or the other. It is not that we are stubborn and think about one system.
“I can remember when we played 4-4-1-1 and it was really good in the beginning and then people started talking about not winning the games in the manner they wanted us to win saying, ‘Is that really the right system? Why doesn’t Mo Salah play on the wing?’ There is always a reason to talk.”
Klopp said there are reasons Keita and Shaqiri have played less in recent weeks. “We have to think about a lot of things before a game," he explained. “Naby is actually in a good moment and has trained well. It's only been the last three games he didn't play too much. If we play the system we play most of the time then there are only three positions [in midfield]. Somebody has to be out, but it's all good. They are all fit and we can use them all.
“Shaq had a little injury and was out. There was something with his back and he needed a little time. It affected him and that's all. He's fully fit now.”
At the start of the season, Klopp’s hope was for Liverpool to still have a title chance at this point of a season. Despite recent draws, he thinks his squad is conditioned to be at their best from herein.
“One hundred per cent. That is my feeling at the moment,” said Klopp. “Everything is prepared for that. It looks as positive as it has been since I don’t know when. People are coming back. We had to go through situations with two centre halves, one centre-half plus Fabinho. We came through. In midfield there were three players left. To cope and deal with all of the situations in the season - that is the art, that is what it is about and then if you do that then you are in a situation that pretty much all the other teams want to be.
“If there is a chance for us with winning all our games, getting as many points as possible, then we will be there. If there is a final match day and we go for it, wonderful. If there are two match days, wonderful. But we have nine matches and the one to play now is Burnley.”