Former Arsenal striker and Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas has urged Jurgen Klopp ‘to protect’ his Liverpool players following their 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
The German manager was victim to his first defeat since September after Diego Simeone produced a managerial masterclass to hand the Spanish giants the advantage in the first leg of Liverpool and Atletico’s Champions League knockout match.
Liverpool will host the return fixture at Anfield on Wednesday, March 11 and the European champions will once again require the power of their home fortress if they are dream of retaining their Champions League crown.
The Reds are yet to lose at Anfield in the league since April 2017 whilst they are unbeaten at home in Europe since October 2015.
Despite the English champions-elect just five matches away from Premier League immortality ahead of their Monday night clash against West Ham, Nicholas has called for Klopp to consider his options with Liverpool’s European status currently on the brink.
Ahead of his weekly Sky Sports prediction column, he said: “Liverpool will have had a chance to recover from Tuesday’s defeat in Madrid.
“We knew they would get it tough; they did not play well and had lots of the ball but it was a dogged team that got physical and defended well, and that agitated Liverpool. This happens and it is the Champions League after all.
“Liverpool will take it nice and easy if they do score early, and then can afford to make the changes. Jurgen Klopp has to protect some of these players and do not want them to pick up any injuries for the return leg. The result will not be as damaging as some people may think.”
What RTK has to say
While Klopp is unlikely to make wholesale changes to the team that was defeated upon the Reds’ return to the Spanish capital, the former Borussia Dortmund manager will likely alternate in key positions with the games coming thick-and-fast.
Liverpool will have to juggle their PL duties alongside an FA Cup and Champions League campaign if any aspirations of an improbable treble are to be met.
The Reds have showcased the depth of talent that currently exists in the academy ranks and Klopp could entrust responsibility to some of Liverpool’s younger stars with players such as Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Neco Williams expected to have prominent roles throughout the remainder of the season.