Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has defended striker Christian Benteke after the Belgian international was criticised following a lackluster performance during the Reds' 2-0 loss to Newcastle United on Sunday (6 December). The Reds saw their three-game winning streak come to an end, leaving them six points behind arch rivals Manchester United, who are occupying the final Champions League qualification spot.
Benteke, who arrived from Aston Villa in the summer in a reported £32.5m ($49.3m) deal, has failed to live up to expectations managing just four goals in 12 Premier League appearances thus far this campaign. The former Borussia Dortmund manager, however, refused to blame the Belgian international for the loss and believes his poor performance was on par with the rest of the team.
The German manager also made it clear that he sees the striker as an important part of the squad and is confident that he can adapt to his high pressing style. Benteke will be expected to lead the line yet again following Daniel Sturridge's injury when the Merseyside club travels to Switzerland to take on FC Sion in the Europa League, where they need just a point to secure top spot in group B.
"Of course Christian Benteke didn't do so well, but I'd say like a few players who were not in their best shape on this day at Newcastle. It was not a problem of Christian Benteke, it was a problem of our game in common," Klopp said, as quoted by the Liverpool Echo.
"Yes, of course, I think he can press. The number nine doesn't have to defend the whole pitch, it is to close spaces."
"It is not a question of Christian Benteke, he has done very good for us. It is okay — it is not a problem. Just on Sunday it was," the former Borussia Dortmund manager added.