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'It's a 13-month year' - Klopp shrugs off Mane concerns as Liverpool prepare for Dortmund test

4:32 AM MYT 19/07/2019
Sadio Mane Liverpool 2018-19
The Reds boss admits Senegal star's long 2018-19 campaign could be an issue as European champions ready themselves for Premier League challenge

Even the South Bend rain can’t dampen Jurgen Klopp’s spirits right now. 

Liverpool saw their training plans changed due to the storms which have worked their way across Indiana this week. A planned session at the famous Notre Dame Stadium on Thursday afternoon was shelved due to the weather, with ground staff worried about damaging the pitch. 

Fortunately, the University of Notre Dame campus houses some of the best sporting facilities in the USA, and so the Reds’ move to the nearby Alumni Stadium was hardly an issue. 

“Notre Dame, wow!” Klopp had remarked at an upbeat press conference. “No football club in the world has the facilities they have here. It’s a dream.” 

Liverpool take on Borussia Dortmund in their first American friendly here on Friday evening. “The first proper challenge of pre-season,” Klopp called it, having seen his side comfortably beat Tranmere and Bradford in their opening two fixtures. 

His squad will be boosted by the presence of Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who returned to full training last weekend. Andy Robertson, too, should be fit despite undergoing a minor procedure to fix an infection in his right hand. 

There will still be some big names missing, naturally. Alisson Becker remains on holiday, while none of Liverpool’s vaunted front three – Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – have returned yet, having represented their countries at the Copa America and Africa Cup of Nations this summer. 

With the new season hurtling into view – Liverpool play Manchester City in the Community Shield in 16 days’ time – that presents a potential issue for Klopp. Alisson, Firmino and Salah will join the squad for their training camp in Evian at the end of the month, but Mane’s 2018/19 campaign is yet to finish. The forward will captain Senegal in the AFCON final against Algeria on Friday before, belatedly, heading on his summer break. 

“It’s a 13-month season,” said Klopp, admitting to “concerns” around the work load his star trio have undergone. “I don’t want to sound like a moaner, but this is an obvious thing. 

“We need to see how we deal with it. The Brazilians finished the season on an absolute high winning two trophies, for Mo it was slightly different but I’m constantly in contact with him and all three of them are fine.  

“Sadio’s case is special because his tournament has been so long and tomorrow it’s 16 days until we play Man City. I will talk to him immediately after his game and we will find a solution for that.  

“We have important games to come and we know pretty much which players are available, hopefully we can go through this period without any injuries and let’s prepare the group we have around for the first couple of games, then Sadio should be in as well and fresh enough to go again.” 

Klopp was in good spirits as he went through his pre-match media duties, even finding time to praise Everton for their summer transfer business. “I know not too many people will want to hear that!” he joked. 

Liverpool’s own window has been rather quiet, with Sepp van den Berg their only signing since the close-season. 

The Dutch defender, 17, will have to wait before his first appearance, with FIFA yet to grant international clearance following his move from PEC Zwolle. 

Klopp, though, has seen enough of the teenage centre-back in training to feel he can have a big part to play in Liverpool’s future.

“It surprised me when he stood in front of me and was taller than me - that doesn’t happen too often in my life,” he smiled. “Especially when they are 17 years old and still growing!

“He’s a wonderful boy and he decided to join us, which is good. It’s a not a long-term project where the boy has to think he has to wait five years to play for us, but it’s not necessarily for this moment. 

“We don’t struggle in the centre-back position, we have a lot of options. Last year, there was a time when we had just one left plus Fabinho. That should not happen again. If it does, we find the solutions. 

“With Sepp, he’s just an outstanding talent. He has to adjust to a proper physical pre-season, which is hard for him so we help him and do the right things for his development.”

One potential disappointment for Liverpool and their manager may be the crowd for Friday’s game. One stadium source told Goal that only around 40,000 are expected, in a stadium which has a 77,000 capacity.

For Klopp, though, the game is a good chance to gauge where his squad is at with the new campaign approaching.

“To be prepared for this kind of season, you need strong opponents,” he said. “It will be a pretty young team I guess. It will be a tough game. But even in pre-season we want to win it. 

“You can learn sometimes more from a defeat, but I hope we can learn tomorrow from a good game.”