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Jurgen Klopp’s edgy tension spoke volumes but Liverpool’s Premier League gamble pays off – Mark Jones


NEWCASTLE 0-1 LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp made five changes to his side for the lunchtime kick-off at St James’ Park, but his side passed yet another test as their quest for football history goes on

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As he shifted fairly uncomfortably in front of the BT Sport cameras Jurgen Klopp was perhaps waiting for the bait to come.

The Liverpool manager has, of course, clashed with interviewer Des Kelly before, and he looked as though he was on the precipice of doing so again in the moments before one of the tougher tests on this relentless run-in.

Kelly was kind though, opting not to mention the elephant in the room of the 12.30 kick-off 62 hours after the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Villarreal had ended.

Klopp had been vociferous in his opposition to this match being played at this time, although he had notably made sure to dial down his complaints in the immediate build-up, perhaps for fear of giving his players excuses.







Klopp cut a nervy figure before the match
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Image:

Newcastle United via Getty Image)

If Kelly had asked him about that though, he looked ready to dive in, maybe with a sense of unease over his team selection unfolding in his mind.

In the end he just got the rotation question.

“We have to do it because of the intensity of the period we’re in,” he said, the subtext of the kick-off time buried within.

“But when you make five changes and that is still the line-up then obviously you have a good squad.

“We could have changed more but it was about rhythm and stability as well, and everyone knowing exactly what the other one is doing.”

Five changes, with Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold amongst those rotated out, was another indication of the strength that Klopp has at his disposal at the moment, but it was also a gamble at a time when every match is being played on a tightrope.

In 2022 the only other times changes have been made on this scale came in Anfield Champions League second legs with the majority of the job had been done away from home in the first, and so rotating this much for a trip to one of the in-form teams in the Premier League was the biggest risk Klopp has taken in the quadruple hunt.

But the rewards are so important.

Two of those rotated in made the difference for the goal which came after a predictably tough opening.

James Milner’s tackle on Fabian Schar was clean and fair, and then Naby Keita danced around the Newcastle defenders and fired home a composed finish.

Milner and Keita are two of several players whose Liverpool futures will have become clearer with the announcement of Klopp’s new contract this week.

The redoubtable Yorkshireman’s own deal runs out at the end of this season, and so in theory he could have been starting his final big game for the Reds here. But Klopp still wants him around and he seems certain to stay for one more year.







Diogo Jota missed several chances to make it 2-0
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Action Images via Reuters)

Keita has been the clear winner in his battle with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with the pair both out of contract next summer but one proving a key member of the squad right now and the other nowhere to be seen.

These are types of players Klopp is relying on when he rotates, with Joe Gomez also doing a fine job in defence and Diogo Jota lively upfront.

The Portuguese was perhaps more guilty than anyone of not grabbing the second goal that would have put this game this game to bed, another step to immortality checked off.

But the three points were gained in the end, a victory for the shattered man of the match Milner who ached on the bench as Andy Robertson grimaced following a lung-bursting 93rd minute run.

Another game, another win, even more energy expended, the changes quickly forgotten about.

What was Klopp so worried about?

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