“Even the masks are sick of it!”
There’s laughter around the media room and from the other end of the Zoom call as Jurgen Klopp holds up his face mask by a broken ear strap, with his trademark grin on his face.
It’s the final day of 2021 and the Liverpool manager is more than happy to move into next year and towards a time when Covid restrictions can finally be dropped.
The hectic festive fixture schedule has not allowed much time for reminiscing on the past 12 months but, for Klopp, that suits him fine.
“No, I didn’t have a proper look back, but I saw a few [highlight reels] of 2021 and for convenience tried to find some positives in 2021 – and it was tricky,” he says laughing.
“I’m happy it’s over pretty much.
“I know it’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s birthday today, so happy birthday Sir Alex, it’s a big one. And my assistant Pete Krawietz turns 50 today, so another big football brain has an important birthday. So that’s more in my mind when I think about celebrations.
“We all hope for a better 2022.”
The past 12 months have hardly been disastrous for Liverpool. Indeed, they saw one of the club’s all-time iconic moments, when Alisson became the first goalkeeper to score for them, with his 95th-minute goal against West Brom helping to secure third place and Champions League qualification.
But by the high standards Liverpool have set in recent seasons, there have been frustrations at the start and end of the year, with injuries in early 2021 derailing the team before dropped points in the past two Premier League games – amid injuries, illnesses and postponements – made a title challenge in this campaign significantly tougher.
“Qualifying for the Champions League was for us an absolute highlight and the way we did it but the year started off with an awful injury crisis and you don’t want to have that on top of all the corona things around,” said Klopp. “It was a really tough time.
“We made it somehow happen and we needed the goal from our goalkeeper and that was a massive highlight, no doubt about it. A very good pre-season, we played an absolutely OK season so far, that’s absolutely true but with all the things around it’s just tricky.
“You arrive in the morning and you never know who you have available the next morning. It’s not cool. That’s why I said: the year was not a catastrophe but it’s not one I’ll remember for ages.
The new normal is better than the other normal in Covid but there’s still space for improvement towards the real normal. I can’t wait for that.
“The new normal is better than the other normal in Covid but there’s still space for improvement towards the real normal, I can’t wait for that.”
As for resolutions, Klopp doesn’t have many in particular. “I think I should make a diet again,” he laughs. But really the focus is on the short term right now. And it has to be, with a trip to Chelsea on Sunday.
After recent results for both sides, it feels like a pivotal moment in the season.
It is perhaps a mark of how high Liverpool and Manchester City have raised the bar in title races these days that the 20th game of a campaign could be decisive. But that’s the situation the two challengers to City’s crown find themselves in.
For the winner, there will still be some hope of catching Pep Guardiola’s side. For the loser, the defending champions are likely to be too far ahead.
“City are flying,” accepts Klopp. “Before the Leicester game, we were in a perfect position, only three points behind City, which, with the season they’ve played, is incredible.
“Our start to this year, 2021, was massively difficult, and to find a way back into your normal performances and maybe improve them was a massive improvement.
“But one of us can put pressure on City, the winner can… the loser I don’t know. We will see that later on. We will not give up just because we lost our game against Leicester. We will try everything, 100 per cent. There are a lot of games to come.
Live Renault Super Sunday
Sunday 2nd January 4:00pm
“City didn’t have a proper ‘down’ in 2021. Their 110 points in a calendar year is quite impressive, I have to say!
“But in the end it’s a football game and the only way you can win is if you really want to play it, fancy the challenge, be annoying if necessary, be fluid if possible, play your best football and, if you give it a try, you have a chance. But the opponents are Chelsea and they are a really good team as well.”
For Klopp, Liverpool’s defeat to Leicester could even prove to be a good motivational tool for his players.
“We have to fight through it,” he said. “Leicester gave us a good example: however hard it is, if you put a proper shift in there’s a chance. It was pretty inspiring: Let’s give it a go.”
Klopp may be tired of 2021 – but his energy and enthusiasm for the challenges which lie ahead remain as electric as ever.
Follow every Liverpool game in the Premier League this season with our live blogs on the Sky Sports website and app, and watch match highlights for free shortly after full-time.
Want the Liverpool latest? Bookmark our Liverpool news page, check out Liverpool’s fixtures and Liverpool’s latest results, watch Liverpool goals and video, keep track of the Premier League table and see which Liverpool games are coming up live on Sky Sports.
Get all this and more – including notifications sent straight to your phone – by downloading the Sky Sports Scores app and setting Liverpool as your favourite team.
Hear the best Premier League reaction and expert analysis with the Essential Football and Gary Neville podcasts, keep up-to-date with our dedicated Transfer Centre, follow the Sky Sports social accounts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and find out how to get Sky Sports.