Klopp: Henderson had 'most difficult job in England' replacing Gerrard

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The midfielder never had anything to prove to his manager during his struggles earlier this season, according to the German .

Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has shown he is capable of emerging from Steven Gerrard's shadow.

The 27-year-old England midfielder endured a patchy run of form earlier this season and notably spent the key fixture against Spartak Moscow on the bench before the turn of the year.

But since his return from a hamstring injury at the end of January, Henderson has proved central to Klopp's plans once more and the former Sunderland man excelled in Saturday's 2-0 win over Newcastle United.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 match against Porto, Klopp told reporters: "Jordan knows what I think about him and what [England manager] Gareth Southgate think about him. That's 100 per cent clear.

"Can Jordan improve? Yes, he is young enough to do that, to do so in a lot of parts of the game. But is he a strong player? Yes, 100 per cent. That's why he is playing for us, that's why he is our skipper. 

“The last game for sure was an outstandingly good game from him, it was really - in a lot of parts - a really good performance.

"He controlled the game, switched the sides, his passing range was brilliant, he did things in the right moment, was very aggressive, very, very good in defending and even when he was not aggressive, he was patient and won the challenges. That helped us a lot.

“He is a really good player and if anyone saw that then I am happy for him. There was not a second of doubt in my opinion, but as I said, he can improve for sure."

Taking the armband at Anfield and being a mainstay of the England midfield in the aftermath of Gerrard's outstanding career for club and country has sometimes invited heavy scrutiny for Henderson, who Klopp feels has earned being respected as a fine footballer in his own right.

“He has the most difficult job in England - he had to replace Steven Gerrard. That’s not a nice job to do, not a nice job to have. Hopefully people don’t think about that too much anymore and see him more as a single person and as a fantastic football player.

“I always thought he dealt really well with it. When he is fit, he is a really, really strong football player.”

Liverpool hold a 5-0 lead heading into the home leg versus Porto after Sadio Mane helped himself to a hat-trick at the Estadio do Dragao last month.

Nevertheless, Klopp is not ready to make wholesale changes, even with a trip to Manchester United on the horizon this weekend.

“We could [rotate], but I’m not sure I will do it because it could be misunderstood,” the manager told Liverpoolfc.com ahead of the match.

“I really want to show respect. I want to show respect to the opponent, to the tournament, and I want to have the best line-up possible and the best line-up which makes sense to win the game, because that’s why we are here.

“We are unbeaten so far in the Champions League this season and I would love to stay unbeaten as long as possible. That would help a lot.”

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