By Simon Evans
LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp took aim at UEFA’s new Nations League competition, labelling it “senseless”, after his side headed into the international break with a home draw against Premier League leaders Manchester City on Sunday.
Klopp and his City counterpart Pep Guardiola were satisfied with their team’s displays in a tight, tactical encounter which finished 0-0 at Anfield, but the German was clearly frustrated to now lose his players for international duty.
The Nations League was introduced this year by European soccer’s governing body UEFA largely to replace friendly matches with competitive games in a mini-group format.
“Now the players go off and play the Nations League which is the most senseless competition in the world of football,” said Klopp, who urged the soccer authorities to look at the issue of players being overused.
“We have to start thinking about the players. You have to call the manager of any country and say, ‘Can you leave players out?’ and he says, ‘I am under pressure as well’,” said Klopp.
He noted that his England midfielder Jordan Henderson had barely two weeks’ rest following the World Cup in Russia.
The German coach was pleased with a point from Sunday’s top of the table clash with City, which left the pair level with Chelsea on 20 points and ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
“And Arsenal are two points behind and they won six games in a row. It looks like they are in a good shape,” said Klopp.
“If somebody had told me after eight fixtures 20 points I’d say yes but with this fixture list I would buy it,” he added.
“I am really happy with what the boys did. I thought how we defended was brilliant. We have played City often and they are outstanding. It was really intense and both showed respect for the other team,” he said.
Guardiola acknowledged that his side had chosen to lower the tempo in the game to limit the potency of Liverpool’s attack.
“If it is an open game at Anfield, you don’t even have one percent of a chance,” he said. “We control it through Riyad (Mahrez), Bernardo (Silva), the guys to give the extra pass.
“Up and down they are the best team in the world in these transitions, offensive, defensive, they are built for that. In that situation they are much better,” added the Spaniard.
“I am so comfortable with the performance… They didn’t have one shot on target. At Anfield, that is so complicated.”
Guardiola defended Mahrez, who missed a great chance to win the game when he blasted an 86th minute penalty over the bar.
“He had the courage and the balls to hit the penalty. In the training session he shoots perfect penalties, and ok this sometimes happens so at the end it is what it is.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)