Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp used the international break to advance planning for the summer transfer window and insists discussions on player strategy were “positive”.
The Reds boss, like the rest of his squad not away with national teams, took a few days off but returned to the club’s AXA training complex to fill his spare time advancing plans for his summer rebuild.
While that did not include the recruitment of a new sporting director, with Julian Ward set to leave at the end of the season, there were extensive talks on whom to target to bolster the squad with the focus on reinforcing midfield, with Borussia Dortmund’s England international Jude Bellingham a long-term priority.
“That is the only thing we do in the international break, apart from have a few days off,” said Klopp.
“The player side (was) positive, I would say. But (it was) talks not decisions – but we are busy.”
While none of that can help now ahead of the Saturday lunchtime kick-off against Manchester City, Klopp does at least head to the Etihad Stadium with a squad virtually at full strength.
Striker Darwin Nunez has recovered from a cut ankle which forced him out of international duty with Uruguay while long-term injured players Luis Diaz and Thiago Alcantara are set to rejoin full training next week.
Colombia winger Diaz has been out with a knee injury since early October but stepped up his recovery during the international break.
“Luis is back in small parts of training after a very long time out,” added Klopp.
“It was fantastic to have him back, such an energiser and boost, but he will not train today with us.
“This week was the first step back into training, next week he will increase that and then he is ready I think. We have to judge him every day how he deals with the intensity but it looks really promising.”
Thiago has missed almost two months with a hip problem but Klopp said: “Thiago is not back in team training yet but I think if things go well he will probably be part of next week’s team training.”
Liverpool face City knowing they cannot afford many more slip-ups if they are to secure Champions League football next season.
The 19-point chasm to the Premier League’s second-placed side is of less consequence than the seven-point gap they have to close on Tottenham, in fourth, with two matches in hand.
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Beating City at home in October was one of the highlights of an inconsistent season but avoiding defeat – at the very least – at the start of a nine-day period when they also play Chelsea and Arsenal is imperative.
“An important game, that is the one thing that is not different to the other years,” said Klopp.
“I don’t say it is nicer to fight for the title, we just have to win football games and you just get what you deserve if you work hard enough and we try.
“We know it is a massive game, a massive week. Tomorrow they (City) deserve all the attention and that is how we approach it.
“Against City you have to be on top of your game, you have to defend on a super-high level and play football as well (because) the kind of dominance they can show, it is important not to forget you have to play football.”
While an exit to Real Madrid in the last 16 ended their Champions League participation prior to the international break Klopp is affording the next few days as much importance as a European week.
“It is like a Champions League week, you can have an English team midweek in the Champions League and we have had that in the past, yeah. I am super excited,” he said.
“We are not dumb. We know the last game we played in Madrid was not a good game (losing 1-0 for a 6-2 aggregate loss).
“The game before at Bournemouth was not a good game. The game before (a historic 7-0 win over Manchester United) was world class.
“We have to make sure we pick up from there. City have to expect we will be in a top shape and we have to turn up and really go for it.
“We play City, Chelsea and Arsenal every season but in one week is pretty special.”