Jurgen Klopp insists the Premier League will always be Liverpool’s priority as they prepare to face rivals Everton at Anfield in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.
Following their astonishing Europa League victory over Borussia Dortmund which sealed a place in the semi-finals, the Reds made 10 changes for Sunday’s 2-1 win over AFC Bournemouth.
Klopp has clashes with Everton and Newcastle United to negotiate prior to the first leg of Liverpool’s semi-final with Villarreal, but he stresses that the league will always be at the forefront of his mind as he prepares for his first derby since taking over.
“We had no other chance to win,” he said when asked why he had made so many alterations at the Vitality Stadium.
“I said to the boys that maybe sometimes rotation is for resting players for another tournament. In our case, we only rotate because the most important tournament still and always will be the Premier League.
“We wanted to win the game – that’s why we took another formation. You cannot rest for a tournament, you can only try to find a few more fit players and that is what we tried to do.
“We have two more Premier League games before the next European game so we don’t think about Europa League.”
Liverpool have won five, drawn one and lost one of their last seven league fixtures, a run that has them eighth in the table, five points behind Manchester United in fifth with a game in hand.
That means continental qualification through their league placing is still very much within their grasp, but opponents Everton have no such momentum.
Like Liverpool, Roberto Martinez’s men have progressed in another competition – they face Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday having previously made the last four of the League Cup this season.
In the Premier League, though, Everton have only picked up three points from six games and drew 1-1 at home to Southampton last time out when Ramiro Funes Mori’s goal was cancelled out by Sadio Mane, leaving them 11th.
“Overall it is disappointing – we wanted to win at home,” said Funes Mori. “The goal didn’t mean anything because we did not win.
“We drew a game we should have won but we will keep fighting until the end. We don’t want to tie, we want to win.
“It is going to be an intense week. We have important games coming up so we will do everything to win against Liverpool and then go again in the FA Cup.”
Six of the previous seven Merseyside derbies in the Premier League have finished as draws, including Brendan Rodgers’ last game in charge of the Reds – 1-1 at Goodison Park in October.
Liverpool are undefeated in 10 top-flight derbies, with Everton’s last win coming in October 2010 when Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta netted in a 2-0 triumph at Goodison.
Klopp will check on Divock Origi (back) and Kolo Toure (muscular problem), with the likes of Christian Benteke (knee), Emre Can (ankle) and Jordan Henderson (knee) all out.
Everton will monitor Leighton Baines (groin) and Aaron Lennon (hamstring) in the lead up to kick-off, while Tom Cleverley (knock), Seamus Coleman and Phil Jagielka (both hamstring) are less likely to make it.
Key Opta stats:
– Liverpool v Everton is the fixture with the most red cards in Premier League history (20), but there have been none in the last eight meetings.
– Romelu Lukaku has scored five goals in his last seven Premier League appearances against Liverpool.
– Liverpool have not won back to back Premier League games at Anfield since May 2015.
– Roberto Firmino has been involved in 12 goals in his last 10 Premier League games (8 goals, 4 assists).
– Daniel Sturridge has scored in four of his last five Premier League appearances (four goals).
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