'I've been worried about people dying – not the title,' says Jürgen Klopp

Jürgen Klopp could not be diplomatic if he tried. But for the record, let it be known that he did try. When press conferences resumed in the past few days, he was faced almost immediately with a zinger of a question about whether he ever worried the British government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic might cost Liverpool their chance to win the Premier League title on the pitch.

“I am a sportsperson and I don’t want to say what I really think about the situation because it would open a Pandora’s box,” the Liverpool manager said. “I was not worried for one second the government could cost us the title because I was worried, and I am still worried, about the numbers who were dying.”

Klopp also worried that going public with his opinion on Covid-19 would lead to his earlier comments about the Merseyside derby, empty grounds and the physical condition of his players being relatively overlooked. On balance, though, he thought it worthwhile to give his opinion anyway.

“I didn’t vote for this government, that’s my excuse,” he said. “The government was the choice of other people, but the problem I had was that I was getting the news from Germany as well as from England. I have no idea of the pandemic situation in Italy or France, but I do know exactly how it is in England and Germany and an alien looking at it from outside would think we came from two different planets.

“I don’t know why we waited until 15 June to start wearing face masks in closed areas, when all the other countries were doing it five or six weeks ago. You can argue about whether it makes sense to wear them but all the countries who started doing it earlier have smaller casualty numbers than England. That’s the truth.”

While Klopp’s immediate family are with him on Merseyside, his extended family are in Germany and frequently in touch. “If you don’t wear a face mask you aren’t allowed into a shop in Germany,” he said. “With a face mask you can go into a shop or a restaurant, even to a hairdresser. When I go to a petrol station in England I am the only one with a face mask and gloves. I feel like an alien, but I won’t stop until someone tells me it’s over.

“I know my family in Germany is living the kind of normal life that we cannot imagine here. You can still have a wonderful night in a restaurant, just wear a face mask to go in and out. It doesn’t sound so difficult to me. It is not perfect in Germany, people have died and people have been ill, but in terms of living your life it is completely different.

“Being here, there were moments when the subject of null-and-voiding the league came up and I just thought: ‘Wow.’ That would have been really hard for me to take. I always thought we had to finish the season and I’m happy we now have the chance. I love the fact we have to play for it so let’s go.

Jürgen Klopp addresses his Liverpool players during a training session at Anfield this month.

Jürgen Klopp addresses his Liverpool players during a training session at Anfield this month. Photograph: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty Images

“It’s going to be pretty intense for a while, but we’ll take it like it is and try our best. Our first game is a tough one, it always would be anywhere in this city. Everton are a good team with an excellent manager and we need to be ready for them.”

When Klopp watched Manchester City’s first game back, he was impressed at how strong they looked. “Everything was back to normal straight away on the first day,” he said. “Some strange decisions in one game and Manchester City winning the other.

“I watched City beat Arsenal thinking how could it be possible that we have 22 points more than them. They made five substitutions and still left Leroy Sané on the bench. We must have done something right to be so far ahead, but City will not stop. Manchester United will strike back, too, and Chelsea are already showing they want to be there next season.”

All 90 remaining Premier League games will be shown live, with 31 matches available free to air. Sky will show 25 games on their Freeview platform, Pick (ch11). 

The BBC will show four matches, with Amazon also making their four games available for free on Prime Video. The remaining 59 games will be available to subscribers on Sky Sports and BT Sport

Dates, times and channels

Friday 19 June
Norwich v Southampton 6pm Sky/Pick
Tottenham v Manchester United 8.15pm Sky Sports

Saturday 20 June
Watford v Leicester 12.30pm BT Sport
Brighton v Arsenal 3pm BT
West Ham v Wolves 5.30pm Sky
Bournemouth v C Palace 7.45pm BBC One

Sunday 21 June
Newcastle v Sheffield United 2pm Sky/Pick
Aston Villa v Chelsea 4.15pm Sky
Everton v Liverpool 7pm Sky/Pick

Monday 22 June
Manchester City v Burnley 8pm Sky

Tuesday 23 June
Leicester v Brighton 6pm Sky
Tottenham v West Ham 8.15pm Sky

Wednesday 24 June
Man Utd v Sheffield Utd 6pm Sky/Pick
Newcastle v Aston Villa 6pm BT
Norwich v Everton 6pm BBC Two/One
Wolves v Bournemouth 8.15pm BT
Liverpool v Crystal Palace 8.15pm Sky

Thursday 25 June
Burnley v Watford 6pm Sky/Pick
Southampton v Arsenal  6pm Sky
Chelsea v Manchester City 8.15pm BT

Saturday 27 June
Aston Villa v Wolves 12.30pm BT

Sunday 28 June
Watford v Southampton 4.30pm Sky/Pick

Monday 29 June
Crystal Palace v Burnley 8pm Amazon

Tuesday 30 June
Brighton v Man Utd 8.15pm Sky/Pick

Wednesday 1 July
Bournemouth v Newcastle 6pm Sky/Pick
Arsenal v Norwich 6pm BT
Everton v Leicester 6pm Sky
West Ham v Chelsea 8.15pm Sky

Thursday 2 July
Sheffield United v Tottenham 6pm Sky
Manchester City v Liverpool 8.15pm Sky

Saturday 4 July
Norwich v Brighton 12.30pm BT
Leicester v C Palace 3pm Sky/Pick
Man Utd v Bournemouth 3pm BT
Wolves v Arsenal 5.30pm Sky
Chelsea v Watford 8pm Sky

Sunday 5 July
Burnley v Sheffield United 12pm Sky/Pick
Newcastle v West Ham 2pm Sky
Liverpool v Aston Villa 4.30pm Sky
Southampton v Man City 7pm BBC One

Monday 6 July
Tottenham v Everton 8pm Sky

Tuesday 7 July
Crystal Palace v Chelsea 6pm Sky
Watford v Norwich 6pm Sky/Pick
Arsenal v Leicester 8.15pm Sky

Wednesday 8 July
Man City v Newcastle 6pm BT
Sheffield Utd v Wolves 6pm Sky
West Ham v Burnley 6pm BT
Brighton v Liverpool 8.15pm Sky

Thursday 9 July
Bournemouth v Tottenham 6pm Sky/Pick
Everton v Southampton 6pm Amazon

Aston Villa v Man Utd 8.15pm Sky

Saturday 11 July
Norwich v West Ham 12.30pm BT
Watford v Newcastle 12.30pm Amazon
Liverpool v Burnley 3pm BT Sport
Sheffield Utd v Chelsea 5.30pm Sky
Brighton v Man City 8pm Sky

Sunday 12 July
Wolves v Everton 12pm Sky/Pick
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace 2pm Sky
Tottenham v Arsenal 4.30pm Sky
Bournemouth v Leicester 7pm Sky/Pick

Mon 13 July
Man Utd v Southampton 8pm Sky/Pick

Games in italics are free-to-air; later fixture dates and times TBC

For all those reasons Klopp tends to doubt whether it will be possible for Liverpool to achieve the sort of dominance over the English game they enjoyed in the years preceding their last title, in 1990. Although he does not mind sticking around trying. “Hopefully a lot more seasons will come,” he said. “You never know what the future will hold and at the moment we all believe finding a solution to the virus is the most important thing. No one knows exactly what to do at this point.

“You can see Chelsea are pretty much off on the front foot in the transfer market, but no one else has done anything much because the times are so uncertain. If someone were to say, for example, that you can’t play football in front of supporters until 2023, that would change the whole thing. I don’t really think that will happen but you cannot just assume everything is going to be fine for the next season.

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“It seems a good time to wait a little bit. It’s like if you live in a flat but want to buy a house, this might not be the best time to buy the house. You would want to wait and see how the situation develops. It feels a little bit like that in the football club as well. We may not be in the most beautiful flat ever, but it’s pretty good. We should not forget that.”

Jamie Carragher said last weekend the era of one-club domination is probably over – after Liverpool’s boom years, Sir Alex Ferguson came along and won 13 titles in 20 years at Manchester United – and Klopp agrees. “There are some big teams with big money in this league now so I don’t think it will be the same as it used to be,” he said. “For Ferguson to win it 13 times is a lot, really a lot. But I am sure he did not set out to do that at the beginning. He was an exceptional manager with a super eye for players, but in the beginning he just did what he did and made some good decisions.

“We can certainly try to do that. We will make good decisions as well and see where it leads us.”

source: theguardian.com