Klopp welcomes return of Sturridge, Henderson
THE return of Daniel Sturridge and captain Jordan Henderson were a welcome sight for Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp even if his team were far less easy on the eye in a laboured 1-0 win over Swansea City on Sunday.
Both players came off the bench in the second half as Liverpool moved up to sixth in football's English Premier League, six points behind leaders Manchester City and Leicester City, with a gritty win courtesy of a second-half penalty from James Milner.
Liverpool lacked the stylish fluency of the previous weekend's 4-1 dismantling of Manchester City away, although a resolute defensive display and the return of two potentially key figures ensured there was plenty to smile about for Klopp.
"It was good news for the big Liverpool family," the German said. "They are two very important players for us and they're back in the race. They did well for their situation and from where they've come from after a long break with difficult injuries. Now they are back and that's really good for us."
Sturridge, whose goals were a crucial part of Liverpool's failed title charge two seasons ago, had been restricted to three games this term and had not played since Oct 4, while Henderson missed all but the first two league games.
Providing they can stay fit, both players are likely to become key components for Klopp as he continues to restructure the team and build on his positive start in the Anfield dugout.
Liverpool have won six of their last seven games in all competitions and sit within striking distance of the top four, trailing Arsenal by four points.
Yet, their laboured home displays still contrast starkly with their scintillating away form which delivered victory over Chelsea at the end of last month, as well as City.
Having failed to turn dominance over Swansea into a healthy lead, the tension around Anfield as the visitors pumped a flurry of late set-pieces into the box made for a nervy finale.
Said Klopp: "Football is not a sport where you can only play one way. The two games against City and Chelsea are not to be compared (with the Swansea game) and because of the opponent and the way they play, we cannot always play like this.
"Parts of our game against Man City should always be in our game but there is a big difference. Tonight, we are deserved winners and there's no doubt about it - that's the only thing we should care about.
"Development is taking all your performances and working on it. At the end of a period of time, we can be at our best much more often. At this moment, we have to fight in really difficult circumstances - that's what the boys did."
The result meant that Swansea, who were fourth at the end of August, are only four points above the relegation zone after winning just one of their last 10 league matches.
That has led to suggestions that manager Garry Monk's job is under threat, despite the fact that he led them to eighth place last season - their highest league finish since 1982.
"Nothing much in football surprises me to be honest. But I would say I'd be surprised if it is the right decision to criticise him because his team plays very well," said Klopp. "They showed a good reaction against us following their recent results.
"I'm not sure what level Swansea wanted to reach before the season started but for this team, I see no problem in the league. They will play a good role over the remainder of the season, I'm sure."
Despite Klopp's endorsement, Swansea failed to record a single shot on target at Anfield.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE