LONDON, Dec 8 — Jurgen Klopp said he is happy with the progress of his rebuilt Liverpool team as they bid to go top of the Premier League at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Liverpool’s midfield was remodelled following a disappointing campaign last season, with a series of big-name players leaving the club, including captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.

Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister, Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo have all arrived at Anfield, adding fresh energy to a side that looked past its best.

If Liverpool beat Palace in the early kick-off on Saturday they will replace Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table, at least for a few hours.

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Klopp said he did not plan for exactly where his team would be in early December, but he was pleased with their development, saying team spirit had been forged in moments of adversity.

“I wanted to create with the boys a basis early on in pre-season, through the pre-season, then to become a real team you have to overcome difficulties,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Friday.

“We got that delivered with red cards, stuff like this, being 1-0 down, being down in games when we could overcome that so that definitely speeded the process up but I have no clue where we would have been without that. I’m just happy with the development up until this point.

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“We had to replace a few of the strongest characters in world football — did that with a few of the strongest characters in world football. Our new leadership group are all experienced world-class footballers so that’s helpful, with a real understanding of a team dynamic.”

Pressure

The German said he was not surprised by how well his team were performing but admitted their struggles last season, when they finished fifth, had put doubts into people’s minds.

“We knew that we had that kind of pressure to put that right and I’m happy that we could show the right signs,” he said.

“Nothing has happened yet obviously but just we play much more positive football again. That comes with confidence, confidence comes with results, results come with good performances, good performances comes with a good pre-season.”

Klopp was also asked about the future of defender Joel Matip, who could be out for the rest of the season after suffering a serious knee injury last weekend against Fulham.

The Liverpool boss expects the club to look after the 32-year-old, in the final year of his contract, and potentially offer him a new deal.

“I’m pretty sure the club will show their class, just how you should do it,” he said. “I’m pretty sure the club told Joel already that whatever happens, so as long as he is injured, everything is fine.

“And now we have to make a decision together with Joel how it looks after that. That’s a normal thing to do. But, yes, he deserves all the support from us, obviously, and he will get it.” — AFP