Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes striker Daniel Sturridge needs to put aside any concerns he may have about his place in the side for the good of the club’s season.
Klopp arrived in Spain for the crucial Champions League clash with Sevilla on the back of more speculation about the future of his England striker, who will reportedly look for a move in January in an attempt to salvage his World Cup hopes with England.
Similar noises about a lack of game time and a January move were heard 12 months ago, but Klopp shrugged them off.
“I can imagine a player with his quality is not happy that he is not starting all the time, but that’s all,” said Klopp.
“The situation with the player is completely OK. At this moment we are in November and need all our players — even if he feels a little different.
“There is around one-and-a-half months before the window opens and I don’t think about things like this. There are so many games before then and I need all of them (his players).”
Klopp admits it is now crunch time for his side in the Champions League.
They top Group E and a win against Sevilla in Spain will see them qualify for the knockout stages with a match to spare.
However, their hosts have an impressive home record — they have not lost at the Sanchez Pizjuan since November last year — and it will not be straightforward.
“In the group stage you cannot choose where you get the points from but when you get to the end the more decisive games are,” said Klopp, who is still frustrated at dropping two points at home to the Spaniards due to a late equaliser back in September.
“It felt quite average when we conceded a goal at home to Sevilla (to draw 2-2) and if we had not conceded this goal the situation would have been even better.
“This is ‘the’ game, against Sevilla in Seville. They are a very experienced football-playing team and that’s the Champions League.”
The Sanchez Pizchuan is renowned for its atmosphere and Klopp knows that is something his players will have to handle and quieten if they are to succeed.
“The atmosphere here is really famous and it is our job to make the game not that enjoyable — other teams try it when they come to Anfield,” he said.
“I have played twice here with two teams — Mainz and Dortmund — and it (the atmosphere) depends on the performance.
“But we are not here to enjoy the atmosphere, we are here to get a result.”
Winger Mohamed Salah, the Premier League’s top scorer with nine, will be key to Liverpool’s success or otherwise in Seville.
Asked whether the £38m (€43m) summer signing had exceeded expectations with 14 goals in 18 appearances in all competitions, Klopp said: “He has reached them at least, that’s clear.
“I like Mo and his goals but we don’t have to talk about that as it’s in the past. I’m more interested in his statistics tomorrow night.
“It was not luck that he scored, he gets fantastic goals. He could build confidence off this.”
As Klopp was in Spain it was no surprise to hear the local media ask about the continued speculation linking Barcelona with another move for Philippe Coutinho, who handed in a transfer request when he learned of their interest in August only for three bids from the Catalans to be rejected out of hand.
Klopp, however, brushed it aside, saying: “He is 100% Liverpool.”
With qualification for the knockout stage up for grabs in Spain, the Reds boss would like to exact some payback for their 2016 Europa League final defeat by beating Sevilla on their own turf.
The 3-1 reverse in Basel 18 months ago still hurts, especially since Liverpool led 1-0 at half-time, and, having failed to deliver a decisive blow in September at Anfield, Klopp hopes a victory will finally provide some compensation.
Klopp has visited the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan twice before with Mainz and Borussia Dortmund and left with two draws (0-0 and 2-2), but would dearly love to silence the vociferous home crowd.
But he knows he will need a “mature” performance from his side.
“Without that you have no chance,” he said.
“They (Sevilla) have all the things you need, experienced strikers, quick strikers, ready for channelled balls, midfielders (Steven) N’Zonzi, (Ever) Banega, (Jesus) Navas quick in behind. Different things they have.
“When you prepare for a game like this you think, ‘Oh my god, they are really good’. It is more interesting to face them.
“This is a tough place to come. What we did in the last month result-wise has given us confidence coming here, but that does not mean we win it.
“Our new maturity we will have to show it 100% in this atmosphere. We do not need to run in only one direction and win in the first second.
“We have to show how the last games were against a quality opponent.”
Liverpool travelled without injured centre-back Joel Matip, who should recover from a groin problem in time for Saturday’s visit of Chelsea.
Midfielder Adam Lallana, who has yet to play a competitive match after a pre-season thigh injury, was on the plane, but may still have to bide his time.
“He is getting nearer and nearer, but we need him for the rest of the season and not for the next weeks,” Klopp told liverpoolfc.com.
“He is really knocking on the door and it’s fantastic that he is back. It’s great.”
Klopp will keep his players in the south of Spain for an extra night.
The Reds touched down in Andalusia yesterday and rather than fly straight back after the showdown at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium tonight, the squad will remain in the city and train there tomorrow before heading home.
Klopp took a 23-man squad to Spain with one eye on the fact that those not involved in the match will be around to take part in the session. It means Liverpool will be able to take advantage of the perfect training conditions, with day time temperatures around 24 degrees in Seville.
Liverpool squad in Seville:
Karius, Wijnaldum, Lovren, Milner, Firmino, Coutinho, Salah, Gomez, Henderson, Sturridge, Grujic, Klavan, Moreno, Mane, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mignolet, Can, Robertson, Ings, Solanke, Ward, Alexander-Arnold.
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