Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is losing patience with his players over the way they defend set-pieces and does not want to have to speak to them about it again.
There were more lapses in Saturday’s manic and madcap 5-4 win at Norwich, and Klopp accepts part of that was down to another poor start in the game.
He is still trying to find a solution as to why they often are slow out of the blocks, which he has observed has happened three or four times this season, but insists the talking must stop over how to defend set-plays. Only Bournemouth and Swansea have conceded more from dead-ball situations and, after admitting at the weekend it had become a “self-fulfilling prophecy”, he hopes to have put an end to it.
“First of all, of course we know about this problem. I am sorry to say it is not a problem we can ignore,” he said.
“It is obvious we didn’t handle it too well. We are a football team and we always work on our weaknesses.
“It is not about the formation, because we changed the formation. It is not always about the quality of the set-plays, it is about what we are doing.
“We had good talks together; it’s not the first one, but hopefully the last one. It is not too late to learn, but now it is time to learn and show we have learned.”
Klopp hopes he can harness the power of Anfield to get his side through to their first final since they lost against Chelsea at Wembley in the FA Cup in 2012. He does not believe the players will have any motivational issues for the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg against Stoke, which they go into holding a 1-0 advantage.
“Reaching a final is great, but at the end it is only memorable when you win it and that is what you have to do. You should not waste the opportunity of winning something and I know for the players it is really important, they really want to go to the final.”
Among all the seriousness of a semi-final build-up, Klopp was still able to inject some humour. In Saturday’s wild celebrations at Adam Lallana’s added-time winner, the Reds boss had his glasses knocked off and broken by striker Christian Benteke.
He appeared at the club’s Melwood training ground bespectacled again, but he is not a fan of his spare pair.
“These are not new, they are my second pair of glasses. Now, I have to be careful,” he joked. “They are black and I look a little bit like a serial killer.”
Asked whether Benteke would have to pay for the damage, Klopp replied: “It was my fault and never in my life has someone had to pay for something which is my fault.”
Liverpool vice-captain James Milner insists if the Reds can win silverware, it will at least prove the players have not taken their eye off the ball with the changes at the club since Brendan Rodgers left.
“It’s not about writing off this season, saying: ‘We’ve changed the manager, there’s a lot of changes and let’s go again next year’,” he said. “If we can win at least one trophy while changing manager and improving, and new players coming in during a year of transition, then we’ll be achieving something, and that’s the aim.
“We’re in a position where we haven’t played as well as we would have liked and there’s a lot of improvements to be made, so we can move on. It’s always nice to go to Wembley, but we’ve got this job to do first.”
Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross will miss the match and manager Mark Hughes revealed he will be sidelined for up to a month by a back injury.
Shawcross came off in the first half of Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League loss at Leicester. Hughes said: “Thankfully it is not a recurrence of the back injury which required surgery [last summer], so that is a positive.
“Unfortunately, the negative is that he has soft muscle damage and at the moment it is looking like it will probably be three to four weeks.”
Hughes expects forward Marko Arnautovic, who has been carrying a hamstring problem for a while and sat out Saturday’s match, to be available for selection. Hughes said scans had shown there was “just a little bit of tightness” rather than any major damage to Arnautovic’s hamstring and that Stoke would make sure the Austria international, having trained yesterday, was “primed and ready to go” tonight.
Midfielder Geoff Cameron (ankle) remains sidelined, but may be return in Saturday’s FA Cup game at Crystal Palace.
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