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Jurgen Klopp plays down focus on Erling Haaland – “Football doesn’t work like that”


Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool cannot pin all of their hopes on Virgil van Dijk shutting down Erling Haaland when the title rivals Manchester City visit Anfield.

There are no shortage of subplots when the Premier League pacesetters square off on Merseyside on Sunday, not least the possibility of Klopp’s final head-to-head battle against Pep Guardiola.

Away from the managers’ dugouts it could be tempting to view the game as an arm wrestle between the irrepressible Haaland – who has 29 goals this season and seven in his last three outings – and the commanding Van Dijk.

But when it comes to City, Klopp believes there is too much quality and too many alternate options to rely on an old-fashioned man-marking exercise.

“Football doesn’t work like that any more. If Haaland is not scoring that is good but they have other options to do that,” he said.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 25, 2023: Manchester City's Erling Haaland (L) and Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“If Virgil van Dijk would be able to nullify Haaland then Foden fires the ball in from 30 yards into the far corner, or Kevin De Bruyne does exactly the same, or Rodri is arriving, or Bernardo Silva is doing it.

“I don’t think for a second like that, that they are playing against each other. Yes, there are moments it definitely will happen, 100 percent, and hopefully we will be at the better end that, but this football game is about so many aspects.

“When you watch the movement of Erling Haaland he is incredibly smart putting himself in positions. He’s smart enough not to all of the time be around the one he might consider the best one.”

Liverpool had planned to have Ibrahima Konate alongside Van Dijk to help manage the free-scoring Norwegian, but saw their plans dented when the former was injured in Thursday’s Europa League thrashing of Sparta Prague.

While awaiting the result of scans Klopp did not appear optimistic about Konate’s chances, but made it clear he would have no qualms throwing rookie Jarell Quansah into the biggest game of his career if required.

A year ago the 21-year-old was lining up against Forest Green during a loan spell at Bristol Rovers but circumstances have allowed him to progress further and faster than anyone expected.

Injuries across the back line thrust him up the pecking order and his response has earned the manager’s trust.

“Massive, massive development. He just stepped up,” said Klopp.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 11, 2023: Liverpool's Jarell Quansah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brentford FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“He came back [from Rovers] and it wasn’t that everybody in the club was saying, ‘yeah, he will be the next one’.

“We knew he is a real talent, we knew he has massive strength, especially on the ball, stuff like this. But how will he deal with the next-quality Premier League strikers? How is that physicality?

“We thought the situation in the squad is right to do so. If you want [he was] centre-half number five in that moment.

“But he showed immediately that he wants to be in the team in each session and it’s a joy, a pure joy, to have him.”