Jürgen Klopp calls on Liverpool strikers to share burden of busy schedule

<span>Photograph: Jon Super/AP</span>
Photograph: Jon Super/AP

Jürgen Klopp has told Liverpool’s forwards they must share the workload of a demanding December schedule in order to remain at “full throttle”.

Fulham’s visit to Anfield on Sunday marks the start of “the most intense period in world football” according to the Liverpool manager, whose team play eight games in 24 days this month. The final Europa League group game at Union Saint-Gilloise will be an opportunity to rest senior players, however, with Liverpool having won their group to secure a place in the last 16 with a match to spare.

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Cody Gakpo prospered on his return to a central role on Thursday with two goals in the 4-0 defeat of Lask. Klopp viewed Gakpo’s performance not in terms of increasing the competition on Darwin Núñez but as a measure of the work rate and impact needed from his forwards to handle this month’s programme and the absence through injury of Diogo Jota.

“The boys don’t have to convince me in the games,” Klopp said. “This is my squad, this my team, and they play. If somebody is not in extremely awful shape and you think: ‘My God, what is going on with him?’ – and that didn’t happen for a long, long time – then we just decide for the game. This is the most intense period in world football coming up now, for all the teams. So they will all play. We have already Diogo not in so that is not helpful and we have to share these minutes with different players. They have to perform, not always 90 but 60, 70 and at full throttle.

“Darwin is in a top moment, super important for us, and that he didn’t start against Lask has nothing to do with anything else. Now Cody scored twice, fantastic. Does that mean he has to play the next five games in a row? Other players score as well, it’s not about that, and Cody doesn’t expect that. They have to score, that’s the job, that’s what they want, but it’s not that I now have sleepless nights and don’t know how to start. It’s not that much of a choice, to be honest.”

Klopp substituted Mohamed Salah and Luis Díaz after 56 minutes against Lask with Liverpool 3-0 up and his thoughts turning towards Fulham. He also had the teenage forwards Ben Doak and Kaide Gordon back on the bench after injury.

“I am not sure we can rotate all the time – it depends on who is available,” Klopp said. “When you lose in Toulouse, people tell you it’s too many changes and there’s no rhythm. I’d think it myself if I saw the game: is it the right decision? The problem is it’s already done. We have to do it as long as we can but I don’t know if we can do it.

“You saw Newcastle playing in the Champions League [against Paris Saint-Germain] with two goalies, three kids on the bench and a centre-half. That is really tough. We have to make sure we have as many available as much as you can have an influence on it, which we don’t have really.”

Caoimhín Kelleher will remain in goal for Liverpool on Sunday with Alisson sidelined by a hamstring injury. There was interest in the Republic of Ireland international this summer but Klopp wanted to keep the 25-year-old at Anfield.

“He is an exceptional talent,” Klopp said. “Maybe we don’t mention the name often enough but John Achterberg [Liverpool’s goalkeeping coach] said to me from day one that this will be our homegrown boy who will make it. Since then, we see every step. He was a boy, now a man. Top goalie, no doubt.

“He is in general a focused person and we will not see him in a bar celebrating the clean sheet [against Lask]. That’s not a problem. Caoimhín is prepared for [an extended run in the side]; he wants that now. We had discussions in the summer about [moving on] but as long as we don’t have a solution we cannot loan players.”