Klopp gets his wish from Premier League – but Liverpool may still miss out

There was an unavoidable elephant in the room when Jurgen Klopp was recently talking about the rather underreported changes to the Champions League that were ushered in while everyone was distracted by the European Super League.

He and Liverpool might not even be in it.

UEFA’s premier competition won’t be revamped until 2024, when Klopp’s Reds contract runs out, and after the uncertainty of this season then it might be a struggle to confidently predict where the club and the manager are by then.

Conventional wisdom dictates that Liverpool will be better next season. Injured players will return, as will crowds and intensity, and Klopp will back himself get the best out of a group of players he moulded into a relentless winning machine, before suddenly it wasn’t.

But with the passing of time and ageing of legs comes the realisation that the manager will have to remodel his side somewhat, and with that comes doubt.

In the immediate future though, there is no doubt about where Liverpool are and what they are striving to achieve.

Klopp has long held strong opinions on kick-off times
Klopp has long held strong opinions on kick-off times

Should the Reds win all of their four remaining Premier League matches this season, starting with Manchester United on Thursday evening, then at the very worst they will finish level on points with Leicester City in fourth place.

That will mean that Champions League qualification could come down to goal difference, with Liverpool facing trips to relegated West Brom, safe Burnley and a home match with mid-table Crystal Palace to finish off their season.

Klopp will of course be desperate to get in to the competition because Liverpool do, by their very nature, have a great chance of winning it. But they need to be in it first.

But the Reds boss must also see the irony in the fact that at this point of do-or-die between the final confirmation of a wrecked campaign and something salvaged from it has come the announcement he was waiting for.

The German has never been a fan of the Saturday lunchtime Premier League kick-off at the best of times, calling it ‘breakfast time’ and stressing that his teams are not really built to be at their optimum at such an hour.

That ill-feeling towards the time only increases after his side have been involved in a Wednesday night Champions League game, with the now infamous eruption at BT Sport’s Des Kelly coming back in November when Liverpool had conceded a controversial late penalty to draw 1-1 at Brighton, three days after an Anfield loss to Atalanta.

Klopp and BT Sport's Des Kelly were involved in a fiery interview in November
Klopp and BT Sport’s Des Kelly were involved in a fiery interview in November

At the height of the injury issues, Joel Matip had been unable to play at the Amex Stadium and James Milner was forced off with a hamstring problem. These frustrations came bounding out of Klopp’s mouth and thus came the very watchable spat with Kelly, which was fair on both sides.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had actually made the exact same point three weeks earlier after Manchester United had gone from a defeat at Istanbul Basaksehir straight into a Premier League game at Everton, after which he said that BT Sport had tried to “set us up to fail” given the early kick-off time.

The Norwegian perhaps lacks the German’s gravitas when making a point though, and so that was largely forgotten. It was Klopp who was the ranting one, with Liverpool’s poor form only adding fuel to the fires.

But it seems he has won his battle.

As part of the new continuation of the Premier League TV deal announced on Thursday, BT Sport have confirmed that, while their Saturday lunchtime kick-off slot remains, clubs who played in the Champions League the preceding Wednesday will not play matches then.

BT Sport have confirmed changes they hope will ease fixture congestion
BT Sport have confirmed changes they hope will ease fixture congestion

Instead those games will be switched to a Saturday 7.45pm kick-off, with the matches still broadcast on BT, in a move that the broadcaster says will help ease fixture congestion.

But what if Klopp and Liverpool miss out on the Champions League?

Obviously teams that play in Europa League matches on Thursdays then see their Premier League games switched to Sundays as a matter of course, but there doesn’t seem to be any guarantee on kick-off times there.

While it would be unusual if Liverpool were to play in the Sunday noon slot favoured by BBC Sport this season, they might find themselves often playing in the Sky Sports slots between 2pm and 4.30pm.

That would mean less of a rest time between the Wednesday evening-Saturday evening turnaround. Only by a few hours yes, but they could potentially be important if that involved travel back from a European outpost.

With the Europa Conference League, a tournament Liverpool are surely desperate to avoid playing in, also staging their matches on Thursday evenings, Klopp could soon have a new busiest night of the week.

At present the only way to avoid that would be to simply keep winning Premier League games, whenever they kick off.

The run-in starts against Manchester United on a Thursday night, an evening Liverpool and Klopp will not want to get used to playing on.


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