The English don't let Boxing Day be taken away from them. The Premier League has to play, even if the final of the soccer World Cup was only a few days ago. For Liverpool FC and coach Jürgen Klopp it is already the second game after the World Cup - it must be more successful than the start.
The impressions of this bitter defeat against Erling Haaland and Co. were still present when Jürgen Klopp had to comment on the next competitive game with Liverpool FC. "We're really looking forward to what's to come and we know it's going to be very intense," said the team manager at the pre-match press conference on Aston Villa's traditional Boxing Day. The World Cup break is just over when Klopp is right in the middle of this insane chasing of deadlines in English football.
"They will try to cause us problems. We are preparing for that," said Klopp, radiating more anticipation than tiredness. Almost 16 hours earlier, he and his team had failed after a 2: 3 (1: 1) against Manchester City in the round of 16 of the League Cup - which the 55-year-old can probably cope with in view of the immense workload in the coming weeks. Klopp now "only" faces a triple burden from the league, Champions League and FA Cup.
Load control is a big issue, so Klopp and Man City team manager Pep Guardiola rested some regular players. Defense chief Virgil van Dijk, who failed in the quarter-finals of the World Cup with the Netherlands and only returned to Liverpool on Wednesday, was not in the squad. "He's played all the games for us and for the Netherlands so it makes sense to give him two more days," said Klopp.
The situation at the former Dortmunder Haaland is completely different: Because his Norwegians had not qualified for the World Cup, the goalscorer was only allowed to watch in the past few weeks. He was correspondingly hot for the duel with Liverpool on Thursday evening, which he opened 1-0 in the tenth minute. Nathan Ake (58th), who had failed at Van Dijk's side in Qatar two weeks earlier, marked the end of a "high intensity" game that was "spectacular" for Klopp.
When the league starts again, Klopp can hope for well-rested top performers, only Ibrahima Konaté was there with France until the end in Qatar. In addition to van Dijk, other Liverpool professionals played until the quarter-finals, but the stars Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Thiago, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Fabio Carvalho missed the World Cup. Striker Darwin Nunez had failed with Uruguay in the preliminary round, he had already started against Man City.
Against Aston Villa (6.30 p.m.) Liverpool begins a catch-up race on Boxing Day - the Reds are sixth with just 22 points from 14 games and are 15 points behind surprise leaders Arsenal.