Soccer-Klopp happy with Liverpool progress despite hurdles in season of transition

Soccer Football - Europa League - Liverpool Press Conference - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - November 29, 2023 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp during the press conference REUTERS/Molly Darlington/ File photo

(Reuters) - Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp is satisfied with his team's progress in a season of transition where they brought in a host of new recruits, with the Anfield club sitting second in the standings after 15 games.

Liverpool's engine room was rebuilt in the close season with five midfielders leaving the club, while injuries have also made things difficult, but Klopp's side have weathered the storm to sit two points behind leaders Arsenal.

Although they were dealt another blow after losing Joel Matip to a potential season-ending injury, Klopp said other clubs could also be in the same boat with games coming thick and fast in the busiest period of the season.

"I wanted to create a basis early on in pre-season and then to become a real team, you have to overcome difficulties. We got that with red cards, being down in games - and we could overcome that," Klopp told reporters on Friday.

"I am just happy with the development up until this point. We had to replace some of the strongest characters in world football. Our new leadership group are all experienced, world class footballers, so that's helpful.

"All teams are probably only two injuries away from a real problem, we're in the middle of a tricky period with a lot of football and a lot of opportunities."

Saturday's early kickoff at Crystal Palace offers Liverpool the chance provisionally to go top of the standings, but they will be without injured midfielder Alexis Mac Allister while goalkeeper Alisson is still a doubt.

Klopp said Liverpool could have got a better points haul at this stage but added that the title race is tight with several contenders.

"It's a bit unusual (Manchester) City is not top of the table with 10 points between first and second. Arsenal are doing extremely well, we're doing not too bad, Aston Villa are super strong," he said.

"We could have - or should have - a few points more, but we don't. We are where we are and that's ok."

Klopp also praised Palace manager Roy Hodgson, who managed Liverpool over a decade ago and is still going strong at the age of 76.

"He's an outstanding person, a really nice man. When I see him I ask him, 'What are you still doing here?'" Klopp said.

"But he looks happy, enjoys the job. I couldn't respect it more. He was my inspiration, but he doesn't inspire me to work in the job that long. I don't know he's doing that, to be honest."

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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