Jürgen Klopp detailed his respect for Atalanta BC as he previewed Tuesday’s Champions League meeting with the Serie A side at his pre-match press conference.
Having already beaten AFC Ajax and FC Midtjylland in Group D, the Reds next travel to Bergamo to face a team who reached the competition’s quarter-finals last season.
Before the flight to Italy this afternoon, Klopp took questions from the media and explained how his players will approach the challenge posed by Atalanta.
On the condition of his squad ahead of the game…
Naby [Keita] and Joel [Matip] trained yesterday fully. I didn’t make any decisions yet because we are still only two days after the game. We have to wait pretty much until the medical department gives us green or orange or red light, pretty much. So, we wait. But we have, in the moment, more centre-halves available than we probably will line up together, which is good. And Naby trained as well, yeah.
On the levels Jota has been reaching since he joined the club…
He is good, how players actually should be when they join us. He is in the best age, 23, already experienced, played a lot of Premier League football, made his way up in Portugal. He’s a really good boy and a really good signing. That’s the situation. We never hold players back in the beginning, it’s just that players usually need time to adapt. But I knew before it would not take too long for him because of the way Wolves are playing. Yes, they play a different system, but the intensity for Wolves is and was always incredibly high. There might be only one player who has to defend slightly less – not really a lot less, but slightly – is [Raul] Jimenez. But the boys on the wings, they had to run like crazy, so it was clear physically he will be fine. Technically, we saw he is good. All the rest is then about finding your feet, pretty much, in a new environment. The boys always make it easy for new players and Diogo is a very good guy; he is really open, his English is brilliant. It means it was easy for him to step into the team, in the squad, in the dressing room. Now he played. Of course he was involved in games, like they all will be involved in games. It’s special. How I said, Shaq played an incredibly important role as well, and had a difficult time. That’s the same, it has the same importance for us. That all the others stay fit is incredibly important. It’s good we have more than 11 who look like they have a good shape in the moment.
On the penalty given for a foul on Mohamed Salah during Saturday’s win over West Ham United…
What can I say? It was a foul, it was pretty much for everybody who saw the situation. Believe it or not, yesterday morning I spoke to Mo about how he feels and he has exactly three proper knocks on the foot – and one of them is from the penalty situation. That’s how it is. There’s a knock, then you go down or not, whatever; sometimes the refs whistle it. We don’t talk that long about penalties we don’t get, to be honest, in other games. But obviously now two days after the game we talk about that. And there was clear contact. What can I say? No, I don’t understand the criticism.
On Shaqiri being involved again and his role for the side…
Shaq can play the wing, he has everything for that, but is a creative player and played for Switzerland on the No.10 [position]. They know a lot about football there, so they wouldn’t bring him there if they think he is better in another position. Shaq is a versatile offensive player. He played for us in the No.8, wing and now No.10 when he came on. That’s all the positions he can play. He was not involved not for disciplinary reasons or whatever – he was injured, unfortunately. Sometimes players have a bad run with injuries and that’s what he had. It’s not that he was that often injured but the calf made some problems. Now everything is fine, which is good for him and even better for us because we missed him last year in a lot of moments. It’s not that we wanted to keep him out of the team. He is a good player, a really good player who had a massive impact in pretty much all the games he played and was part of some of the biggest games in our common history. So, just happy to have him back.
On his impression of Atalanta and their progress in recent years…
Very good. Very good; top, top players; top recruitment; very, very well organised; play their system with 100 per cent conviction, they know exactly what everybody has to do. They use the skills of the individuals in an incredibly smart way, so you can exactly see how they use the strikers, how they use the strikers in different ways.
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