Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has backed striker Christian Benteke to turn his form around.
The Belgium international scored in back-to-back 1-0 wins over Leicester City and Sunderland after Christmas but has not started a Premier League match since the 2-0 loss at West Ham on January 2, with Klopp preferring Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino in a central attacking role.
Benteke was unable to find the net over 180 minutes against League Two Exeter City in the third round of the FA Cup but Klopp praised his overall performance in Wednesday’s 3-0 replay win at Anfield ahead of this weekend’s league trip to Norwich City.
“Everyone could see he was involved in three goals – third goal, really good pass, first goal perfect play,” he told a news conference.
“Sometimes he tried too hard, but he stayed cool and everybody could see he knows where the goal is.
“You need a striker who makes a goal. I have seen him playing like this, holding the ball up for the team, and we have to work hard for him to do this.”
Klopp anticipates a tough match at Carrow Road and believes Norwich have shrewdly boosted their fight against relegation with the signings of Wolfsburg defender Timm Klose and Everton forward Steven Naismith
“They have had some problems in defence, less in offence,” he said. “They are creative and quick, but they conceded easy goals.
“But they have changed this situation, taking Wolfsburg defender Timm Klose. I know him, he’s really good.
“We are the first team who have to play [against] their new team.
“Steven Naismith is a really good player. I saw him live for Scotland and was really impressed. He’s a danger.”
Klopp was pleased with the contribution of his younger fringe players against Exeter, with 18-year-old Sheyi Ojo netting the second goal.
Nevertheless, the former Borussia Dortmund coach suggested he will continue to use such talents cautiously and sparingly in Premier League action.
“I’m really patient with these guys. If they work hard, they can improve.
“You always see skills and moments, but a game is 90 minutes. We have to help them be prepared. We will not forget them for helping us. But go back and work, that’s it.
“Most of the time we have had to fight for a result in the last 20 minutes, so it’s not the best time for a young player to come in.
“I understand why you ask about this but [we’re talking about] 17 or 18 year-old players who have a 17-year career.
“If they are good enough, cool, they were good enough for the game [against Exeter] and you could see that. Then they have to work further.”
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