Jurgen Klopp breaks tradition as Curtis Jones change evident

So this is the December that will break with tradition then.

For the first time in Jurgen Klopp’s tenure, Liverpool will head into the last match-day of the Champions League’s group stages safe in the knowledge that their passage is secured.

Group D has been safely negotiated with little, if not quite minimum, fuss.

Save for one of the poorest European displays in many a season last week against Atalanta, it’s been plain sailing for Klopp’s side.

That night can at least now be swept into Room 101 and left off the end-of-season DVD.

Liverpool’s qualification ends the trend of 2017, ’18 and ’19 where they have taken proceedings to the final fixture. There will be no nail biting in Denmark in eight days’ time.

Fans can now sit back and relax when the Reds take on Midtjylland next week to bring what is usually three months worth of Champions League football to a close inside seven weeks.

They know that whatever happens, they are through to the last 16 with the potential of maybe even visiting whoever they are paired with for the competition’s mid-February return.

Music to the ears of fans who haven’t been to a game since March.

What a transformation it’s been in Europe for the Reds under the current manager. Five years ago, qualification for the competition itself would have been cause for celebration and it looked someway off.

Now, they contest the last 16 as a matter of routine and have serious designs on becoming champions of Europe every time.

With three Champions League final appearances on his CV, including winning it in 2019,  Klopp’s tactical acumen at this elite level sometimes goes curiously unspoken outside the confines of the red bubble.

And while emerging out of a tricky-looking Group D with relative ease will do little to enhance his overall reputation as a coach, qualification to the latter stages should always have a pat on a back reserved for it at Anfield.

The injury crisis and fixture pile-up remain almost chronic sources of frustration for Klopp, but the Champions League now affords him a chance he simply has to take next week.

The meeting with Midtjylland on December 9 is a dead rubber that gives a wounded Liverpool some much-needed respite. Expect Klopp to rest, rotate and recuperate as he negotiates these seven games before the end of a truly unforgettable 2020.

Klopp sprung something of a surprise when the team news dropped at 6.45pm with Ireland Under-21 international Caoimhin Kelleher named in goal ahead of usual stand-in Adrian.

With Alisson Becker set to be sidelined for the best part of two weeks with a hamstring issue, the gauntlet was thrown down the Kelleher as Klopp gave the Cork-born keeper a massive vote of confidence.

If the 22-year-old was experiencing any nerves on just his fifth first-team appearance then an excellent save from Noussair Mazraoui’s long-range effort would have been just the tonic.

Another expert stop in the closing stages from…

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