Jurgen Klopp discussed transfers, injuries, youngsters and the challenge from the mid-table ahead Liverpool’s season opener at home to West Ham.
The Reds take on a new-look Hammers side at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, as they kick off their Premier League campaign in pursuit of three points.
After a second consecutive fourth-placed finish last time out, and a heavy summer of spending, Liverpool have been backed to challenge Man City for the title.
But while Klopp insisted his expectations remain high for his squad, he stressed: “We are still Rocky Balboa and not Ivan Drago, we have to fight more and do more things.”
The manager’s focus at this stage is on West Ham, who are under new management in Manuel Pellegrini and feature a host of new names, which Klopp believes creates an element of surprise:
“[Pellegrini] is one of the very, very successful managers on this planet, he knows how football goes. A really good tactician, really good coach.
“That changed quite a few things. The change can go through the team of West Ham—it’s a completely different team.
“Arnautovic No. 9, Yarmolenko right, Anderson left, or Chicharito as striker and Arnautovic on the wing or No. 10. Behind them Wilshere and Noble, a new full-back in, Cresswell back.
“It’s just a good football team, they are ambitious this season.
“But if you go into the first game as Liverpool, people expect you to win. We expect the same, but we know between now and then there are 95 brutal minutes.
“It’s easy not to underestimate West Ham to be honest, that’s the thing. Plus it’s the first game of the season—analysis doesn’t really exist.
“You have to think more, like you ask me is Hendo in or not—is Chicharito in or not?—one, two, three games it’s like this.”
Klopp also praised the performances of youngsters Nathaniel Phillips, Curtis Jones and Rafa Camacho throughout pre-season, and outlined his expectations for Daniel Sturridge.
He paid another glowing tribute to the departed Danny Ings, and revealed that further outgoings are likely before the European transfer window closes later this month.
In terms of team news, the manager cast doubt over the involvement of Ragnar Klavan, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Fabinho, while ruling out Dejan Lovren after his late return from the World Cup.
And ahead of Alisson‘s competitive debut, he praised the Brazilian for having the calmness required to be a top-level goalkeeper.
Klopp added: “He’s really settled, in for two weeks and looks like he’s in for much longer.”
Liverpool vs. West Ham kicks off at 1.30pm on Sunday (BST), and This is Anfield will provide full coverage of the afternoon’s action, including our new matchday live blog.