UCL to test Klopp’s progress at Liverpool

Liverpool — When Jurgen Klopp arrived at Liverpool in October 2015, he made a promise: “If we sit here in four years, I think we (will) win one title,” he said.

Next month will mark the second anniversary of Klopp’s appointment, the halfway point of that four-year cycle.

There has undoubtedly been progress in that time; a team who were 10th in the Premier League when he arrived finished fourth last season.

Whether they are significantly closer to winning a major trophy is more open to debate.

Liverpool reached two finals in Klopp’s first seven months as manager, losing on penalties to Manchester City in the League Cup at Wembley, and suffering a more decisive 3-1 defeat by Sevilla in the Europa League in Basle.

That European adventure was an unexpected bonus.

Expectations at Anfield are higher now, but Liverpool look far from a complete team as they prepare to face Sevilla once more, this time in the Champions League.

The best and worst of the 2017 Liverpool were shown when they beat Hoffenheim in last month’s play-off to reach the Champions League group stage.

Klopp’s side showed an attacking verve that could threaten the best in Europe.

Close-season signing Mohamed Salah has formed a quick understanding with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Salah and Firmino both scored in the home leg, while Mane was heavily involved in two of the goals.

It is a wealth of attacking talent, and they still have Philippe Coutinho to come back following his failed attempt to engineer a move to Barcelona.

Defensively, though, Liverpool were weak in both legs against Hoffenheim; they could easily have conceded more than three goals in the tie.

Liverpool were defensively suspect last season, and those difficulties have continued into the new campaign.

Klopp signed Loris Karius from Mainz to be his first-choice goalkeeper, then dropped him midway through last season.

Ragnar Klavan, another Klopp buy, from Augsburg, replaced Lovren for last Saturday’s 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City.

However, the extent of the defeat should be put into the context that they had matched City and were trailing 1-0 when Mane was sent off.

At times, it feels as if Klopp has spent two years, and a lot of money, recreating the Liverpool team who almost won the Premier League under Rodgers four seasons ago. — AFP

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