Jurgen Klopp is ready to turn his full attention to Liverpool’s first European final for nine years after the Reds finished their Premier League campaign with a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion.
Liverpool boss Klopp admitted his senior players were already thinking ahead to Wednesday’s Europa League final against holders Sevilla in Basel before Sunday’s domestic finale.
So Klopp made 11 changes at the Hawthorns, with most of the men likely to start the final left on Merseyside to rest while Liverpool’s understudies collected a point thanks to Jordon Ibe’s fine equaliser after Salomon Rondon’s opener.
“We made a few changes – 11,” smiled Klopp. “It absolutely made sense because it’s perfectly clear you cannot play here with 50 per cent concentration.
“I know about playing finals and it would have been quite difficult for the players. It was clear it was going to be quite intense.
“The young boys did really well and we played football.
“The problem would be if we came with other players and they were already with their mind on the next game. That would be absolutely normal, we cannot change this.”
Klopp’s squad could be boosted for Wednesday by the presence of captain Jordan Henderson, who returned from a lay-off of more than a month by playing 26 minutes as a substitute and showed no ill-effects from his knee injury.
“I didn’t want to force the situation and say ‘come on Hendo’ but he didn’t feel anything in the last few sessions so we wanted to try to give him 20 minutes,” Klopp said.
“In the end it was nearly half an hour. It’s good to have him back, for sure.”
– Scrutiny –
Danny Ings seems certain to be missing in Basel, however, despite making his own long-awaited comeback from a knee injury.
After being out since last October, the Liverpool striker figured as a late substitute.
“It’s nice to be part of it and nice I could give him the opportunity,” said Klopp.
“It’s not that we thought he should come in and score three goals, it was more to give this really nice lad something before the break.”
For West Brom, a draw on the final day meant a 14th-place finish after a season when entertainment has been at a premium but their Premier League status has rarely been threatened.
Albion manager Tony Pulis has been subjected to scrutiny from a section of fans for his team’s pragmatic style of play, but he seems set to continue in the role next season.
And he expressed his satisfaction at the outcome of his first full campaign in charge.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “We are the only West Midlands club in the Premier League next year and that’s the first time in 138 years, so we’ve got something to be proud of.
“The problem you get sometimes is that people can get a little bit complacent because you just have a look at the size of the teams who have gone down this year, then look what we’ve done.
“For the club, for the players and for everyone who is connected with the club, I thank them very much for their support and help.
“It’s been a good season, now let’s dust ourselves down and get a good few players in during the summer and start again.”
First published on: The Guardian