Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp says Dejan Lovren is ‘not to blame’ for Watford defeat
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp dismissed suggestions that Dejan Lovren was to blame for their shock defeat by Watford on Saturday.
The centre-half replaced the injured Joe Gomez as the team's 18-game Premier League winning streak came to an end.
Klopp confirmed Gomez would be available for the FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea on Tuesday.
But he said: “If anyone blamed Dejan Lovren for our defeat I cannot help these people.”
Watford striker Troy Deeney, who scored the Hornets' third goal to end Liverpool's hopes of going an entire Premier League season unbeaten, said after the game he had identified Lovren as “the weaker of the two” Reds central defenders.
But while the centre-back pairing of Lovren and Virgil van Dijk looked vulnerable, the Croat was not at fault for Watford's third – Ismaila Sarr intercepted Trent Alexander-Arnold's backpass to Alisson and squared to Deeney who found the empty net.
“It was a massive challenge for him to play against Troy Deeney,” Klopp added. “So many other centre-halves would struggle in this specific situation, Joe has had problems as well.
“Losing the first ball is never the problem, because Troy cannot score from there, so it's about formations around that.
“Both Dejan and Joel Matip have played sensational games for us in this position but you need to be healthy and fit and when you are fit you need rhythm and that is the most difficult thing to get in football. Dejan is an outstanding centre-half.
“You tell me one player on Saturday night who played his normal level and I would be really surprised. It's not because two players didn't play the week before.”
The loss to Watford was Liverpool's first league defeat of the season, scratching their chances of an undefeated campaign, but they still hold a 22-point lead over Manchester City and need 12 points to secure a first league title since 1990.
Klopp said that the result would have no effect on who plays at Chelsea, who Liverpool have beaten twice this season – in the league at Stamford Bridge and on penalties in the Super Cup.
The Reds manager has named changed teams in previous rounds of the FA Cup and in the fourth-round replay win over Shrewsbury, Liverpool's youngest ever side was led by Neil Critchley, who has now joined Blackpool, because Klopp wanted his first team to have a winter break.
The German also said James Milner would be available after a muscle injury.
“The Watford defeat has nothing to do with line-up tomorrow night,” he said.
“We have no clue what Chelsea are doing, they don't know what we are doing. We always play with a team which gives us the best chance to reach the next round.”
Asked if there was a loyalty towards some of the younger players who have helped them reach the fifth round, Klopp replied: “It's not about loyalty, these boys are our boys, if we win the FA Cup in the end they would be involved in all the celebrations.
“From the Shrewsbury team there will be boys in the squad, but if they start we will see. It's a different situation than the last round.”
‘Fans aren't silly enough to believe these things'
Klopp also responded to talk of coronavirus meaning his team may not necessarily win a first league title for 30 years, saying Liverpool supporters aren't “silly enough” to believe the story.
Italian teams have had to play games behind closed doors because of an outbreak in the country, and there are suggestions that global sporting events could be postponed if the situation gets worse.
But Klopp said: “I don't think our fans are paranoid. I think people who are not interested in us bring up these stories. I can't believe Liverpool fans are thinking about it, and I speak to Liverpool fans.
“Anybody wants to ask me about that and how much sense it would make to delete the results of this season and who plays Champions League next year, would be really interesting.
“It's a nice story, but when I saw it first, I thought wow, somebody thinks something like that? Liverpool fans aren't silly enough to believe these things.”
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