Leicester City vs Liverpool: Reality bites as fixture pile-up stops Jurgen Klopp from pressing home his ideas

Following the FA Cup stalemate with West Ham, the Liverpool manager now faces a replay and another game to prepare for

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The Independent Football

The English winter has been cruel for Jürgen Klopp; the reality perhaps dawning on him precisely why the  Premier League is often defined as the most competitive in the world.

This time last year, he took his struggling Borussia Dortmund squad to Andalusia for a mid-season break where the sessions were nevertheless intensive. It gave him an opportunity to recognise what had gone wrong and adjust accordingly. He later described the period as a significant contributor to Dortmund’s subsequent rise from the Bundesliga relegation zone to seventh and qualification for the Europa League.

In drawing 0-0 with West Ham United on Saturday, having fielded a severely weakened team, the Liverpool manager now faces a replay and another game to prepare for. It means less training, where he’d be able to press home his ideas.

Klopp seems to appreciate now it is not just the league calendar that makes English football so challenging. It is the test of progressing in the FA and League Cups too. And then there is the cost of Europe. The demand is relentless. There are few opportunities to take stock. He did not anticipate that Liverpool would also be decimated by injuries and is reluctant to enter the transfer market for short-term replacements.

“These are your rules and I think most of them are older than we are,” he reasoned. “I think you would say I’m crazy if I sit there, punch the air and say, ‘Yeah, another game – let us play five!’

“There is a debate but I come from Germany and I am coming from the outside, so I cannot lead the community and say, ‘C’mon, let’s make a 16-team league’ or something like this. I love football, usually I cannot get enough of it, but sometimes it’s a bit different.”

Klopp did not say he would prefer it if replays were scrapped by the Football Association. Yet he presented the argument of an alternative world where penalty shootouts like the one Liverpool prevailed in against Stoke City in the Capital One Cup semi-final provide spectacle and excitement.

Liverpool travel to Leicester tomorrow. A comment from Claudio Ranieri in the corresponding fixture at Anfield on Boxing Day struck Klopp profoundly. “When I heard Ranieri say, ‘Now we have three days off’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, I hope my players didn’t hear this because in three days off we would miss two games’. It’s not possible in our situation, and it’s not easy.”

After Leicester, Liverpool host Sunderland. Then it’s down to West Ham, where he is likely to use the same young team that performed so admirably at Anfield.

Klopp insists it will be different at Liverpool under him, where players will have until the age of 23 to prove themselves. It explains why Kevin Stewart, who at 22, was a steadying influence in midfield, has hope of earning a new contract when his existing one runs out in summer.