Former Spanish midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez has made a smooth transition to management, helming the fortunes of Qatari champion Al Saad. The 2010 World Cup winner, however, failed to inspire his team through to the knockout stages of the FIFA Club World Cup at home, losing the opportunity to lock horns with European football royalty, Liverpool.
Crediting Jurgen Klopp with Liverpool’s transformation into a relentless pressing machine, led from the front by the attacking trident of Roberto Firmino, Mohammad Salah and Sadio Mane, he said, “What stands out for me with Klopp and Liverpool is their intensity. The intensity in defence and attack, the high press by the front three who occupy the space between the lines and do their pressing there. They're a very difficult team to attack. Physically they're very strong. They win all the second balls and they work really hard on their tactics.”
"Their transitions in attack and defence are just about perfect: how they defend, how they drop back, how they hit hard on the counter, the pace of their players and above all the intensity Klopp gives them.”
Xavi acknowledged that the former Borussia Dortmund manager has surprised him with his flexibility of tactics. “When Klopp came in, I was worried whether he would evolve, adapt, change, really from 4-3-3, constant pressing all the time. Will his teams ever not be involved in end-to-end basketball games? Will he sort the defence out? I didn’t think he would. But Klopp brought the changes and that’s why the team is successful,” he said.
Liverpool, looking for its first Club World Cup title, will take on Mexican and CONCACAF champion Monterrey in the second semifinal at the Khalifa International Stadium on Wednesday.