Soccer

Phil Thompson has time for change but not complacency when it comes to Europe

Former Liverpool captain Phil Thompson believes the squad is strong enough to cope with the numerous changes manager Jurgen Klopp makes in the Europa League (Peter Byrne/PA)
Former Liverpool captain Phil Thompson believes the squad is strong enough to cope with the numerous changes manager Jurgen Klopp makes in the Europa League (Peter Byrne/PA) Former Liverpool captain Phil Thompson believes the squad is strong enough to cope with the numerous changes manager Jurgen Klopp makes in the Europa League (Peter Byrne/PA)

Former Liverpool captain Phil Thompson has no issues with manager Jurgen Klopp making wholesale changes for their Europa League campaign but has warned against complacency.

In their four European matches so far Klopp has made 11, 10, eight and nine alterations from the previous Premier League game and up until the 3-2 defeat to Toulouse earlier this month it had no effect.

Defeat in the south of France extended the process of guaranteeing top spot, and thereby avoiding an extra play-off game in the knockout stage, but that could be secured on Thursday with a win at home to LASK if second-placed Toulouse do not beat Union Saint-Gilloise.

Klopp is likely to make significant changes again at Anfield, especially after injuries to goalkeeper Alisson Becker and Diogo Jota in Saturday’s draw at Manchester City, but three-time European Cup winner Thompson does not believe that should make any difference until the competition reaches its later stages.

“Toulouse was extremely difficult and the players didn’t perform well, there are no two ways about it, but that happens,” he told the PA news agency at the launch of the Ultimate LFC Experience in which fans can experience, among other things, training at the club’s Melwood complex.

“No one was moaning about that team in the other games when we made a lot of changes so I have no problems with that. It was the lads on the day.

“Because we had more or less got the group wrapped up I don’t think we were up for it as much as we should have been and that was the disappointment.

“With respect to the teams we have played in the Europa League it is not as tough as the Champions League group stage so you can mix and match.

“He has got a big squad, you need players and you need them to get minutes and a little bit of understanding and barring the Toulouse game things have gone according to plan.

“Players have got valuable time playing in the Europa League but I think as it goes on you see changes and the first team will come to the fore.”

Thompson believes Liverpool’s position as favourites, which has been the case before a ball was even kicked, is fully justified but knows the competition changes when teams from the Champions League drop down in the new year.

“You can see why they made Liverpool favourites, with their great tradition in the Champions League and European Cup, but you have to wait to see the teams who will drop out of the Champions League,” he added.

Liverpool v Leicester City – Carabao Cup – Third Round – Anfield
Liverpool v Leicester City – Carabao Cup – Third Round – Anfield Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has given 18-year-old Ben Doak opportunities in the Europa League (Martin Rickett/PA)

“In 2001 when we were in the UEFA Cup (and he was assistant to Gerard Houllier) the teams that dropped out were really top-class teams and it was really tough.

“We beat Olympiacos and Barcelona (both teams came from the Champions League) and Porto (who were Champions League qualifying losers).

“The league is your bread and butter but the European competitions are just fantastic so you have to enjoy it, embrace it and if big teams come all the better.”