Klopp urges rivals not to consider fans' return an advantage – 'It's a step in the right direction'

Liverpool

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says rivals should not see the return of fans to certain English football stadiums as providing any "advantage or disadvantage", but as a step in the right direction.

Supporters have been unable to attend top-level football matches in the United Kingdom since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but stadiums are due to begin reopening next week.

The United Kingdom government on Thursday announced a return to a tier-based system for the exit from a second national lockdown on December 2 – areas in tier three will impose the strictest coronavirus-prevention methods, but those in the middle tier will be allowed to welcome up to 2,000 fans to games.

There will initially be an exact split between the number of Premier League clubs able to allow fans in and those that cannot – Brighton and Hove Albion, Everton, Liverpool, Southampton and the six London clubs are all set to reopen their respective stadiums.

Some have criticised a lack of consistency across the board, with Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa and Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce suggesting it gives certain clubs an "unfair" advantage for at least a couple of weeks.

But Klopp thinks people should look at it as a positive step regardless.

"We are all really waiting for little steps in the right direction, not just football, all parts of life," Klopp told reporters.

"Tiers is the best idea at the moment in the country, so it depends how many people are infected over a specific period of time.

"I understand obviously some discussions about how it's an advantage for some clubs - but it's not about advantage, it's about small steps.

"This is a sign – I'm happy we can bring in 2,000 people. Nobody knows how long [for] or even the first game yet, but I think we shouldn't discuss this on a basis of advantages or disadvantages for teams. It's a step in the right direction."

Liverpool go to Brighton on Saturday and could restore Mohamed Salah to their starting XI – the Egyptian missed their past two matches after contracting coronavirus on international duty.

It gives Klopp a selection dilemma given Diogo Jota started in Salah's place in the recent 3-0 win over Leicester City and scored.

That was the fourth successive home league appearance in which Jota had scored, a club record for a player's first four Anfield games, while he has eight in 13 outings across all competitions.

Klopp commented that Jota's swift adaptation has been a significant boost, particularly considering he did not think there was much hope of improving on their forward options.

"Diogo has obviously settled in nicely, true, it's very important for us because we cannot play our 'usual' front three all season," Klopp said.

"It was difficult to improve us there but Diogo looks like he can, it's massively helpful and I'm pleased with that."