Jürgen Klopp praises ‘role model’ James Milner after Liverpool win with rotation | liverpool
Jürgen Klopp delivered a rotating masterclass as his gamble to freshen up Liverpool’s quadruple pursuit squad paid off with a vital win at Newcastle.
Naby Keïta’s 19th-minute goal kept them blowing on the neck of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. Klopp juggled his priorities in a game sandwiched between a Champions League semi-final second leg with Villarreal.
“The changes were cool, the qualifying game is so important,” the Liverpool manager said after making five changes to the squad that started last week’s home win over Villarreal. “The team is the only reason we are where we are. All the boys are completely on board with the situation.
“The boys who didn’t come in, you should have seen their faces at the final whistle. The group is exceptional, exceptionally talented and very good characters.
With Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcântara among those starting on the bench, Klopp included James Milner, 36, in his starting XI and was left hailing his ‘role model’ as Newcastle’s run of six successive home wins took end.
Milner, a former Newcastle player, made his Premier League debut for Leeds almost 20 years ago and has excelled in that return to an old favorite ground.
When asked if he had met a fitter 36-year-old, Klopp replied with a smile: “No, but it would be interesting to watch Luka Modric. Isn’t he 36 too “It was obviously a good generation. It’s hard to be in better shape than Milly.
” It’s a model. I told him, I can tell the whole world – nothing we’ve achieved in the last few years would have happened without James Milner, it’s as simple as that.
“Whether he’s on the pitch or not, he set standards in a way few people can set, and that educated us all.
Milly played a great game today. I loved that game – and he played a huge part in it.
As Milner helped Liverpool extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 15 games, Klopp, fresh from signing a contract extension at Anfield, highlighted the difficulties of competing on so many demanding fronts.
“It was incredibly difficult for the boys today, to be honest; we played two and a half days ago,” he said. “Under the circumstances, it was a first-class performance. We did 100% against a team in top form in a top atmosphere. I am very happy. For me, it’s been a great week.
As Klopp’s attention turned to Tuesday’s Champions League second leg in Spain, Eddie Howe was reminded that despite all of Newcastle’s drastic improvement since taking over from Steve Bruce in November , there is still a lot of work to do.
“I would say there has been progress,” said Howe, who led a once seemingly doomed side away from relegation danger. “We have improved in many aspects of our game, but it also shows that there is a gap that we need to close compared to the top teams. But I’m not surprised by that – I don’t think anyone else is. We have work.
“The biggest disappointment is probably individual. I don’t think we really excelled. The team was OK, we were in the game until the end, but to win these games you probably need six or seven players at their best, and it wasn’t there. It was close, but it wasn’t close enough. We weren’t a real counter-attacking threat. We weren’t quite there .