Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he gave his players the chance to opt out of the Sunderland match if they were too tired – but nobody wanted to.
The Reds drew 2-2 with the Black Cats, less than 44 hours after beating Manchester City.
“I told the players if nobody wanted to play I would never speak about [it] and not tell anyone, but nobody came. That was a good thing,” he said.
MOTD pundit Martin Keown said: “Jurgen Klopp looked tired himself.”
The ex-Arsenal defender added: “The high intensity game has taken it out of them. It has been a good half of the season for them. They are now eight points behind Chelsea though (if the Blues win their game in hand at Tottenham on Wednesday).”
Klopp said he “does not know exactly what I saw” during the draw at the Stadium of Light.
Daniel Sturridge and Sadio Mane twice put the Reds ahead, but two Jermain Defoe penalties pegged them back.
“I’m not able to explain it,” said Klopp. “We can play better football but I’m not sure if you can play better with that break.”
Klopp made just one change to his starting XI, with Sturridge coming in for injured Jordan Henderson in an altered formation.
Liverpool covered a total of 118.63km as a team, outrunning Sunderland, who clocked up 115.89km.
That is in keeping with their performances over the rest of the festive period, during which they ran 116.87km in beating Manchester City and 118.94km in their 4-1 win over Stoke on 27 December.
Sunderland’s manager David Moyes suggested Klopp would have been widely praised had he, rather than Moyes, been responsible for the home side’s tactics.
Klopp described the Black Cats as “the most defensive team I ever saw” after his side won the reverse fixture at Anfield 2-0 in November.
“Maybe if I was a German manager, you might praise that, actually,” said Moyes.
“If I had been German, you might have been saying, ‘great, you’re doing something different’.”
Former Manchester United manager Moyes claimed that the Old Trafford club had moved away from “a tradition where they tended to pick British managers” after his 10-month tenure was followed by the appointment of Dutchman Louis van Gaal and then Portuguese Jose Mourinho.
England striker Sturridge was forced off 10 minutes from full-time on his first Premier League start since October.
However, Klopp is hopeful that the 27-year-old, who has scored six goals in 14 club appearances this season, will be back sooner rather than later.
“He got a knock on his right ankle. I don’t think it’s too bad,” said Klopp.
Sturridge has suffered a series of injuries since signing from Chelsea in January 2013, including hip and thigh problems.
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