Champions League changes will intrigue Liverpool fans again after Jürgen Klopp ‘crazy’ admission
How quickly people forget what happened before.
With Liverpool having to sandwich the small affair of a Champions League game against AC Milan between a Sunday afternoon game at Elland Road and a 3pm Saturday with Crystal Palace, Kopites expected that Jürgen Klopp is making some changes to his starting XI.
But Divock Origi? God damn, man, what are you thinking? It was the general mood on social media ahead of kick-off, and the Belgian’s help with the Reds’ equalizer will not have done much to change the firmly held views of most fans of Liverpool with regard to Origi.
However, Klopp is the man who needs to make the most of the resources he has to work with, and the Reds boss was happy with Origi’s efforts even though he admitted that he believes the player has already moved on to something else.
“To be 100% honest I thought he would be leaving this summer, but the football world is a crazy place and people have obviously forgotten how good he is,” Klopp said.
“Divock Origi is an exceptional forward and he played really well tonight. To be honest, it’s really difficult to get into this team.”
And if Liverpool fans had looked back every 12 months, they would have seen that it was quite usual for the Reds’ number 27 to get the green light in the Champions League group stage.
The top three for Liverpool’s home opener in the competition last year were Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino and Origi. As the opposition was made up of the Danish champions rather than the Serie A finalists, this may have given more room for experimentation, but Origi was called upon nonetheless.
Just as he was – sandwiched between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané – for Atalanta’s visit and as he was, alongside Jota and Salah, for the return match (dead rubber) with Midtjylland. While those lines make sense, what about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Origi and Mané for Thursday night’s home game with Burnley last January? Liverpool fans would love to have three of the Reds top four forwards start every game, but that just isn’t possible, even in the two main competitions.
Origi was the most eye-catching change to the game with Milan when news of the squad broke, but he wasn’t the only one. Joe Gomez replaced Virgil van Dijk to make his first start of the season, Naby Keïta replaced the unfortunate Harvey Elliott and Jordan Henderson took a place in midfield in place of Thiago Alcântara.
This is before we get to the fact that European competitions do not live in the Dark Ages like English football and allow the use of five substitutes. Curtis Jones and James Milner both played a role against Milan when they remained rooted on the bench for the previous game with Leeds.
The Kopites don’t have to cheer about the changes to the squad, but they should expect to see more in the future. Disregarding Midtjylland’s away game last season, Klopp has made an average of four changes to his roster for the first five games of the Champions League group stage compared to their previous league game. Aside from the change of two players for the Atalanta game in Bergamo, when Rhys Williams and Jota entered the squad, the Liverpool manager brought in at least four new faces each time.
Of course, the unprecedented injury crisis that hit the club last season meant that some degree of change was inevitable at times. Likewise, avoiding that same fitness farrago in 2021/22 is all the justification required by the multiple makeup changes.
Let’s be honest, the group stage of the Champions League largely exists to protect the participation of big clubs, making sure that every game is not of the utmost importance. The money earned from the extra games is obviously a good side effect, and it allows managers to rest and spin to some extent. Fringe players need to play, and here’s a chance for them to get a few minutes.
So, whatever fans think, there are plenty of changes to the midweek games that are expected to continue through the fall months. Klopp doesn’t care about your Origi holds when there are top-notch players to protect and matches to win.