Liverpool have made the perfect start to their Premier League campaign with victories over Norwich City and Burnley respectively.
The Reds will face their toughest test yet next week as they play host to Chelsea at Anfield next weekend in a game between two sides with eyes on this year’s title.
It will be a major test not only of Jurgen Klopp’s side’s winning run but also their defensive record – having secured each victory with a clean sheet.
Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip have started the season as the defensive pairing having recovered from long-term injury problems which blighted their 2020-21 campaign.
Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
That record will be tested against the Blues who look certain to hand a start to their club record £97.5million signing Romelu Lukaku on Merseyside.
Following Saturday’s win over Burnley, Klopp was questioned about what it would be like to face the Belgian next week, but he gave an ambiguous response to the scenario.
Klopp told reporters: “Playing against Lukaku will be interesting.”
The German also spoke about the significance of the return to fitness of his defenders.
The Reds boss added: “The package of Virgil van Dijk is really helpful. I like talking about Virgil but I don’t like when we talk about last season [that it’s about] ‘Virgil van Dijk didn’t play’.
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“Just to mention again, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip didn’t play as well which didn’t make the situation easier and people tend to forget how good they are.
“But of course it’s cool having Virgil back.
“He was for sure in moments on the edge today, not physically, not in a dangerous way; just the intensity of the game was incredible – especially for the centre-halves.
“You are constantly in the air, the ref whistles absolutely nothing, strikers are in your body. That was a proper test today and, honestly, I love football, I love all these challenges, all these kind of things, yes, but we came from protecting the players slightly more to letting the game all flow. There is a grey area in between which for sure we will have to adapt again during the season because just now letting the game run doesn’t sound like it makes too much sense.”
The Liverpool boss was also unhappy about Burnley’s physicality at Anfield and questioned the officials not clamping down on challenges made on his players.
Klopp explained: “We always had to be ready for a proper fight and we were,”
“You saw these challenges with [Ashley] Barnes and [Chris] Wood and Virgil [van Dijk] and Joel [Matip].
“I’m not 100 per cent sure if [officials] are going in the right direction with these decisions. It’s like we’re going 10 to 15 years backwards. The rules are like they are, but you cannot defend these situations. That’s how it makes the game really tricky.
“I don’t think it’s right, but I cannot decide these things. I heard about leaving the game [to] flow, but now we have these situations. The second goal from Brentford [against Arsenal on the opening day] must be a foul – you cannot clip the arm of the goalkeeper and say, ‘that’s football’. I think maybe we have to think about it a second or a third time.
“The message now is let the game flow, but nobody exactly knows what that means.
“I like decisions that favour the offensive team, that’s fine. But we have to stick to protecting the players. We cannot deny that. If you like that sort of thing, watch wrestling.
“In a lot of moments, we played a brilliant game without scoring. In all the other moments we had to fight incredibly hard. We won it and nobody got injured.”
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