Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool’s Community Shield clash with Manchester City on Sunday will have no bearing on their battle for the Premier League title.
The two sides will renew the rivalry that saw them take the title race to a tense final day last season.
City eventually claimed their second successive Premier League crown by a single point as Liverpool’s bid for a first title since 1990 reached a painful conclusion.
Klopp’s men made amends for that angst just weeks later as they beat Tottenham in the Champions League final and the Reds are expected to fight it out with City for the major honours again in the coming campaign.
A win against Pep Guardiola’s team at Wembley would be a welcome psychological boost for Liverpool.
But, having seen his pre-season plans disrupted by the absence of key players such as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and keeper Alisson due to the Copa America and African Cup of Nations, Klopp isn’t putting too much stock in the result of the curtain-raiser to the English top-flight season.
“For me, it has nothing to do with the rest of the season,” Klopp told reporters.
“It’s a game and, even if we only have eight players available, I would like to try to win it.
“If we win it, good. Will it have an influence on the season? I don’t think so.
“If we lose it, not good. Will it have an influence on the season? No, again, I don’t think so.
“We have to prove ourselves during the season, not in one game. If I have to say this would be the statement for the season, I would be really mad.”
Klopp admitted he was surprised the Community Shield isn’t taken more seriously in England as he prepares to take part in the match for the first time.
“It’s a final. This is the first time that I realised nobody sees it like that, to be honest. A ‘curtain-raiser’ is unbelievable,” he said.
“We think constantly about the game and how we can prepare for it and then everyone thinks, ‘Oh, do they really play?’
“That’s not too cool, but it’s how it is. I don’t know exactly why people play this competition if it means nothing. Why don’t we cancel it then?
“In Germany, I won it five times, but nobody mentions it. We played every year. The Super Cup, you win it, nobody cares, you lose it and some care.”
– ‘Most difficult game’ –
Klopp said he would not take risks with his line-up against City, especially with players just returning to training ahead of Wednesday’s friendly against Lyon in Geneva.
Mane will remain absent until next week after playing for Senegal in the African Cup of Nations final.
But with his side having suffered a 3-0 defeat against Napoli in Scotland on Sunday — a third pre-season loss in four games — Klopp hopes Liverpool avoid another blow to their confidence if they are similarly below par against City.
“We saw last year that City is the most difficult game to play during the season,” Klopp added.
“We didn’t defend counter-attacks well against Napoli. We lost the ball in the wrong moments and didn’t protect it, and if that happens against City, you don’t have a chance.
“You have to be ready. It’s a good test of the things that are there. We have to defend in a good way because if you don’t defend well against City we can get a proper knock.
“I don’t think we can expect to play our best game of the season on Sunday.
“That’s how it is with pre-season. But it’s about winning a football game. Hopefully, we’ll find a way to do that.”