Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of the criticism of Brazilian superstar Neymar.
Ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield, Klopp sang Neymar’s praises and said the team will do its best to cope with “Neymar, the full football package.”
“I don’t think he’s a person who wants to act or something like that, because if you are like that you can’t play the football he plays,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference on Monday. “So I don’t think about these kind of things, to be honest. He got rested over the weekend so he will be 100% fresh for us, he’s not injured anymore, so we will see the full package, Neymar the football package, so we have to cope with that, and that’s what we’ll try.”
Neymar was criticized throughout the World Cup for his acting, diving and rolling to earn fouls. The Brazilian was the most-fouled player at the tournament at the time of Brazil’s elimination in the Round of 16, and their early departure added more fuel to the fire. Klopp says that while teams in Russia this summer looked to hack Neymar as a purposeful tactic, his side will avoid that strategy during Tuesday’s match.
“We play football. We want to win the ball and we don’t try to act in these kind of things. We try to avoid passes to him, we try to avoid him winning challenges and all that stuff which is a big job to do, to be honest. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to avoid his quality 100%…I’m pretty sure it’s not, so that’s all. He’s a fantastic footballer, an outstanding player.”
Klopp even backed Neymar’s behavior on the pitch, saying, “When I saw a few games at the World Cup…I know what a few people were talking about when it looked like he made a bit more of the situation than it was. That’s, for me, a completely normal reaction because players are really going for him, that’s the truth, and he wants to protect himself and I understand that as well.”
The Liverpool boss said that Neymar was also injured during the World Cup, and claimed that Brazil would have beaten Belgium in the Round of 16 had its superstar been fully fit.
Neymar is just the start of the PSG attacking presence Liverpool will be forced to deal with. Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani also pose serious threats, with the trio combining for 11 goals so far this season. Angel Di Maria also looks on his game, with four goals himself this campaign. PSG was without Neymar and Mbappe this weekend, with the Brazilian rested and his French teammate suspended, and the defending champions still defeated St. Etienne 4-0 with Cavani and Di Maria on the scoresheet plus a goal from Julian Draxler and late substitute Moussa Diaby.