Jurgen Klopp hopes to have the last laugh if Liverpool can end a fixture-congested season on a high.
Liverpool host near-neighbours Everton in Wednesday’s Merseyside derby, one of two games they have left in hand on the Premier League leaders.
Commitments in both domestic cup competitions and the Europa League earlier in the new year, when injuries left Klopp’s squad stretched, provoked fears that Liverpool’s campaign could collapse under the strain.
FA Cup replays against Exeter City and West Ham – the latter ending in an extra-time defeat, and a penalty shootout loss to Manchester City in the League Cup final did nothing to lighten the workload.
But the busy schedule allowed the Liverpool players to become more attuned to Klopp’s methods and they are now reaping the benefits.
A breath-taking comeback to sink Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund secured a Europa League semi-final berth last week, while victories over Stoke City and AFC Bournemouth mean they can close to within two points of fifth-place Manchester United by beating Everton.
“We went the crazy way,” Klopp told a pre-match press conference, reflecting on his most recent feats in squad development.
“We took every game we could get. I think other teams thought it was funny! But we came through, somehow next year I will know more about it [the English season].
“It was a surprise how many games we could have.”
Liverpool’s easing injury burden and the development of young talents such as Cameron Brannagan left Klopp with a swollen training group ahead of the Everton match but eyeing a bright future for the Anfield club.
“We had 45 players in training,” he added. “At times it was difficult but we were forced to use other players, bring guys back from loan.
“There are more young players too. Cameron Brannagan is an outstanding talent. The future of Liverpool looks very nice.
“We are a big club with big targets. We need to win big games. We can’t always play young players.”