Klopp has ‘so much faith’ but pressure builds on Liverpool

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MANCHESTER — The pressure is now on Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, as their lead atop the Premier League table was cut to four points after losing their first game of the season at Manchester City.

A 2-1 defeat at the home of the reigning champs is hardly a low point for Liverpool, but this was a pivotal game in the story of the 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

From Sadio Mane‘s shot which hit the post and was somehow cleared by John Stones, to shots cleared off the line late on and Leroy Sane’s game-winner hitting the post and going in, Klopp’s men just didn’t get the rub of the green as their 20-game unbeaten run to start the season was ended.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk in the press conference after the game about the pressure now on his team to react to this defeat, Klopp’s belief in his players was unwavering.

“I have so much faith in my players you can’t imagine. If someone had told me after both games after Man City we were four points up, I would have paid money for it like you cannot believe. It’s something that is not possible. You wanted to tell us if this happens, if that happens, Pep said something similar very nice, that their season would be over if they lose tonight. Football is like this. If we win this and are 10 points ahead and from that point win no game any more, then nothing happens. For us it is really important that we just take it game by game, because there is no other chance.”

Yet he knows the coming months will be tough.

Klopp has lost 10 of his 25 games in the month of January as Liverpool boss, and how his team reacts to this damaging defeat with the whole world questioning their title credentials will tell us how much more about them than their 20-game unbeaten run to start the season.

His team selection for the game at City showed how cautious Klopp was about losing, with James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum starting as the midfield three. They were overrun by Man City’s midfield trio and the initiative was handed to Liverpool’s opponents early on.

Liverpool’s manager complained about Vincent Kompany‘s robust, lunging tackle on Mohamed Salah in the first half but admitted City had more control of the game in key areas. He knew his team had missed a big chance to pull clear of City and Tottenham.

The pressure is on, but Klopp seemed frustrated that everyone expects his team to know how to clinch a title and trophies when they haven’t been in that situation before.

Liverpool haven’t won a league title in 29 years and Klopp and his squad have yet to win a trophy together. And he knows that experience is crucial to getting a team over the line.

“If we would have won the title five times in the last 10 years, then we could go 100 percent, but we don’t have the experience. Why should we behave like somebody who won all the time?” Klopp said. “It is true the club hasn’t won it for a long time. We never won it as a team, that is how it is. We want to finish the season as good as possible. We can do that. We are still in a pretty good position, so it is all fine for us. Not in the moment, it feels really bad, but it is only a moment. Then tomorrow morning, we wake up and still feels average, then we have an opportunity to work on it and work on it for the next game.”

With 17 games to go they are still in a fabulous position to win their first-ever PL title, but Klopp now looks like a man who knows his team will have to do it the hard way if he’s going to be parading the trophy around Anfield on the final day of the season with that trademark large grin on his face.

FOLLOW LIVE: Southampton v. Derby County

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Southampton and Derby County chase the final spot in the fourth round proper of the 2018-19 FA Cup with a replay at St. Mary’s on Wednesday.

[ FOLLOW: FA Cup scoreboard ]

The clubs drew 2-2 at Pride Park on Jan. 5, with a Nathan Redmond 2-0 lead going to waste for the Premier League visitors.

The victor gets a trip to the Crown Ground to face League One’s Accrington Stanley on Jan. 26.

Full fourth round fixture list

Jan. 25
Arsenal v. Manchester United

Jan. 26
Accrington Stanley v. Derby County or Southampton
Brighton and Hove Albion v. West Bromwich Albion
Bristol City v. Bolton
Doncaster Rovers v. Oldham Athletic
Man City v. Burnley
Middlesbrough v. Newport County
Newcastle United v. Watford
Portsmouth v. Queens Park Rangers
Swansea City v. Gillingham
Shrewsbury Town v. Wolves
Millwall v. Everton
AFC Wimbledon v. West Ham United

Jan. 27
Crystal Palace v. Spurs
Chelsea v. Sheffield Wednesday

Jan. 28
Barnet v. Brentford

Leeds’ Bielsa admits he spied “all the rivals”; How widespread is spying?

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Managerial darling Marcelo Bielsa spoke out Wednesday as fallout continues from a Leeds United scout caught spying on Derby County last week.

Bielsa says he’s spied on every team the club has played in the Championship this season.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

How rare is this? And how big of a role has it played in Leeds’ 4-point lead in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League? From the BBC:

“I observed all the rivals we played against and watched the training sessions of all opponents,” he said. “All the information I need to clarify, I gather it without watching the training session of the opponent, so why did I send someone to watch them? Just because I thought I wasn’t violating the norm. I gathered information that I can obtain in another way.

“We feel guilty if we don’t work enough, it [watching the opponents train] allows us to have less anxiety and in my case I am stupid enough to allow this kind of behavior.”

The 63-year-old Argentine has spent time at Lille, Lazio, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, and Espanyol in addition to running the national teams of Argentina and Chile.

It does raise the question of how much spying is done in soccer. We know that the NFL’s New England Patriots cheated during a game against the New York Jets and that MLB teams try to steal signals, but sneaking around a training session… is that okay? Should it be?

55-goal Martinez re-ups with Atlanta through 2023

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Josef Martinez has signed a new deal with Atlanta United, with a contract tying him to the club through the 2023 Major League Soccer season.

Martinez, 25, has 55 goals in 61 games for the Five Stripes since arriving from Torino in 2017, a strike rate unlike anything the Venezuelan had been able to do in his career with the Serie A club, Young Boys, or Caracas.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

That development has him happy to lock down a new Designated Player deal in Georgia, one that certainly would raise his transfer value. From AtlUtd.com:

“This means a lot to me because of the affection that the fans have shown me, that the fans show all of the players. It’s unique,” Martinez said. “They recognize the effort that you give and they know you did everything to win, and I think that’s why we love playing here. I have to thank everyone. My teammates, the city, my family and friends, because this is a dream I’ve always had. I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home. You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

With neither Newcastle nor Real Betis ready to meet Atlanta’s transfer fee for Miguel Almiron, the Five Stripes are in a bit of a bind with a reported deal for expected DP Pity Martinez despite having the league maximum three DPs in Martinez, Almiron, and Ezequiel Barco. Perhaps the European clubs are trying to force Atlanta’s hand.

Men In Blazers Podcast: De Gea heroics; Liverpool, Man City wins

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Rog and Davo applaud David De Gea‘s goalkeeping heroics in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham. Plus, wins for Liverpool and City in the title race.

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