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Klopp defends selection; 'WE HAD TO ROTATE AND I WOULD DO IT AGAIN'.

Byline: IAN DOYLE Chief LFC Writer at Anfield ian.doyle@reachplc.com @IAN DOYLESport

JURGEN KLOPP has defended his decision to rotate after Liverpool slumped to a disappointing Champions League defeat and said: "I would do it again."

Two goals in four second-half minutes from Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens consigned the Reds to a 2-0 home loss to Atalanta on yesterday evening.

Klopp made five changes from the side that beat Leicester City at the weekend, with Fabinho, Andy Robertson, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota all benched.

But with the Reds boss grappling with both an injury crisis and an intense schedule, he stood by his overhauled team.

"We made five changes and it was very important to us that we did that," said Klopp.

"In the end it didn'T WORK out and that's part of the deal.

"You never know before (what will happen). And anyway I would do it again."

Klopp added: "Making the five changes means we had no real rhythm, which usually we can get during the game.

"The first half wasn't a good game at all, Atalanta weren't good as well.

"We spoke about it and thought in the second half maybe we can do better, but it didn't look like it and that's why we changed early - but unfortunately a second before the changes they scored the goal. It was in a space which we knew they'd try to use, we didn't defend it in that moment. The second one was in a similar manner and we didn't create. If you don't have a shot on target, that's never a good sign." Liverpool had won 5-0 against Atalanta in Italy earlier this month but rarely looked like scoring as they suffered only their second defeat inside five and it was we did anyway I it again. Klopp 90 minutes of the season.

And Klopp explained: "It's a mix of a lot of things. The opponent defended good and were aggressive.

"We didn't use the specific things of their defending. They were man-marking, and you have to move players around and open gaps and pass the ball there. We used it in Bergamo really well.

"It's all about decisionmaking and tonight our decision making wasn't so good."

Despite the defeat, Liverpool still lead Group D by two points from both Ajax and Atalanta, and a draw against the former next Tuesday at Anfield in their penultimate group match would secure progress to the knockout stages.

Klopp, though, is only focused on the quick turnaround with his side at Brighton and Hove Albion. in Saturday's early Premier League match.

"Ajax will be a challenge, with all the challenges we face in this country on top of the normal challenges already," he said.

"My concern is not Ajax, sorry. We go in a few hours to Brighton and play there. That's the first thing we have to think about, and when that game is over we start thinking about Ajax."

Meanwhile Reds midfielder James Milner accepted it had been a "poor performance" from the English champions.

He said: "It was pretty flat.

There were a lot of changes again and we never got going it was disappointing.

"The schedule is busy. Sometimes you have to try to get the win when you are not at your best and not at the level you have. We didn't have that sharpness tonight, but we are still top of the group. We have to recover and go again. The effort was there, we just could not produce our best, so we have to move on pretty quickly."

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini hailed the win as the club's most prestigious.

"Obviously this is something which will be written in the pages of history," he said.

"They haven't lost a Premier League game in 64 matches. This is perhaps our biggest ever victory in our history, certainly our most prestigious.

"We were more solid in defence this time around because the defence was better protected with more players in midfield."

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Jurgen Klopp with Sadio Mane after last night's defeat ANDREW POWELL
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:IAN DOYLE Chief LFC Writer at Anfield ian.doyle@reachplc.com @IAN DOYLESport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 26, 2020
Words:683
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