sport
Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders is looking forward to the Dubai Super Cup. Image Credit: Imran Malik / Gulf News

Dubai: Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are currently in the UAE to participate in the Dubai Super Cup which will help ensure they remain fit and ready when the English Premier League season resumes later this month after the FIFA World Cup ends.

The Merseysiders will play their first match on Sunday night at Al Maktoum Stadium against Ligue 1 side Lyon and then Italian giants AC Milan later in the week. Assistant manager Pep Lijnders insists the Reds will not be taking the tournament lightly. “We don’t have friendlies,” says Lijnders, who has been Klopp’s assistant since 2018. “We are preparing for a proper game because if you want to improve you always have to go above your limits, you have to go out of your comfort zone and that is what we want to try to do in these two games.”

Hungry to win

Lijnders, who had a spell as a manager with NEC in the Netherlands, is keen to show Reds fans in Dubai that the team is hungry to win any tournament it plays. “It’s a real privilege to be here and to show in this part of the world our passion and our way of playing. To bring Jurgen and the team here is special for us and we are looking forward to playing against Lyon and AC Milan.”

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp Image Credit: AP

The 39-year-old, who released his new book, ‘Intensity’, says the opportunity of coming to Dubai for warm weather training was too good of an opportunity to turn down. “The best thing about Dubai is the privacy top professionals can enjoy here along with the combination of the good weather and the quality of life. The infrastructure and quality of the pitches and the sports complexes – for instance we are training at Al Nasr Club and it is just brilliant – has really impressed me.”

Most athletes or managers tend to write a book at the end of their careers but 39-year-old Lijnders chose to do it now. It was during a pre-season tour when he started writing a diary to share with the Liverpool fans to help create some positivity and give them an insight to get a connection with them again. “I started writing the book two seasons ago when we were having difficult times and this when we saw how strong the organizational structure of the club was and how strong the team was. I thought this team with players from different generations deserved to be written about from the inside not from the outside because there are so many special moments that nobody speaks about, so many special moments of Jurgen’s team talks that nobody knows about, so much preparation that really helped to make an impact or the character of certain players that made an impact. I thought when can we do it if don’t do it now because that season as not easy.”

Focus on youth

It worked out well as Liverpool qualified for the Champions League but Lijnders - who was instrumental in pushing for the transfer of Luis Díaz, Diogo Jota and record signing Darwin Nunez - believes the focus must be on the academy and this is a shift that is gradually being enforced at the club. “If you sign players you have to make sure they are the right ones and then you must push for the young ones to fill up the other positions. We cannot afford to buy Nunez two times so we have to put our effort in the academy.”

Liverpool have over 250 kids training each day with dreams and hopes of making it all the way and Lijnders believes young local talent is the way forward. “Our recent history has been great for example coming through the ranks was Trent Alexander-Arnold and Curtis Jones. These boys have something special because they have the club in their heart. Loads of players come from the outside as well but I really believe these boys give 1, 2, or 3 percent more each day because they represent their club. And there is nothing more beautiful than your own players winning cups.”

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Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of many stars to have emerged from the club's academy.

Domestic duties resume on the 23rd December when Liverpool face Man City in the last 16 of the League Cup and winning the Dubai Super Cup would give them the boost they need as they go into the second half of the season trying to catch Arsenal. They are currently 15 points off the table-toppers but Lijnders believes the Gunners can be caught. “If we see each game as a final and treat each game as a final there is really enough to play for and everybody who knows football and knows there are a lot of possibilities knows we will try to chase them and we will see where we end up. But what the fans will see from us is this full commitment to chase and that is the only thing we can promise.”