Weekend mornings haven’t been the same since the English Premier League paused its season. The hope is the EPL is back on NBC sometime soon. Until then, NBC Sports Washington is devoting a week of stories to each of the Big 6 clubs in England: Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City. Because we miss the Premier League, too.
Our second week begins with a look at Liverpool and manager Jurgen Klopp, ready to celebrate its first league title in 30 years before the coronavirus pandemic halted play.
Six points. Two wins.
That is all that separates Liverpool from its first Premier League title and first English top-flight title in 30 years.
Coming off the high of winning the Champions League last season, Jurgen Klopp’s side ran rampant through the early stages of the Premier League schedule and amassed a 25-point lead when the season was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March.
What should have been a weekend of triumph and sheer madness in Liverpool, instead became another harsh reminder that the trophy they’ve been clamoring to regain since 1990 is still just out of reach.
When Klopp, the gregarious German, took the reins of Liverpool FC on October 8, 2015, the team was mired in a slump that saw it sit 10th in the table through the first eight fixtures. Although the team only managed to make up two spots in the standings by season’s end, there were flashes of what the Reds would inevitably become under Klopp, including some triumphant results in the Europa League that season.
Always an effusive character from the sideline, Klopp is well known for his celebrations of goals and big wins, with plenty of bear hugs for his players. In a recent episode of Inside the Mind with NBC Sports’ Premier League studio host Rebecca Lowe before clubs returned to training, Klopp commented on how much he has missed that physical connection with his players.
“We all are prepared to see each other again,” Klopp told Lowe. “Then it will be different because how everyone probably misses, to hug a friend, we miss as well to do that because we are really close to each other.”
Liverpool was certainly clicking on all cylinders as NBC's Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle noted in an extensive breakdown of Liverpool's season in their podcast last month.
As the Premier League’s Project Restart continues down the path to playing games in the coming weeks, and as Liverpool march to their inevitable title, it will be strange to see a potentially subdued Klopp on the sidelines unable to interact with his players in his usual way.
“I’m old enough to realize that I cannot change these things,” said Klopp of the coronavirus pandemic and the physical distancing policies that have changed the way he is able to communicate with players and staff. “I can help with the things we can help, whatever it is, that’s what we obviously do.”
Liverpool have been working out together via Zoom calls since the pandemic started and came back to their Melwood training facility on Friday for their first group practice together since mid-March. Klopp, ever the man-manager, said Friday that none of his players are under any pressure to train if they don’t feel safe and that there will be no repercussions from the club for missing practices.
Klopp emphasized to Sky Sports that returning to play is not more important than the health and safety of the players and staff and their families.
“Yes, we love football, yes, it's our job, but it's not more important than our lives or the lives of other people,” Klopp said.
As for what Klopp thinks the world can learn from this dire situation, his outlook is, as is usual, hopeful, optimistic.
“In this moment, we really see we all live in the same place, we have to take care of the same place, and that’s what I really hope we can learn this from the time,” Klopp said. “And I’m pretty sure we will.”
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