Ragnar Klavan insists Jurgen Klopp’s tactical switch wasn’t to blame for Liverpool’s late slump at home to Bournemouth.
The Reds boss has been criticised for replacing the ill Philippe Coutinho with defender Joel Matip and going to three at the back midway through the second half at Anfield.
At the time Liverpool were on course for victory but after the change of formation they retreated and paid the price when Josh King turned Klavan and slammed home an equaliser to make it 2-2.
However, the Estonia international centre-back says it wasn’t the substitution that cost the Reds two points.
“I don’t think we sat back,” Klavan said.
“It was just the game and we changed the formation a little bit. We’ve played it before and we knew what to do when we changed in the game.
“We defended well and were compact. They did not have any chances after that except for that one.
“It was from a throw-in the second goal happened. It was just a second ball situation when we were not there.
“In a game we don’t feel we are vulnerable in these situations. I think we have done better (at set-pieces). We have a good formation. But it was really bitter to lose those points.”
Klavan, who came back into the starting line up after Matip was deemed only fit enough for a cameo role due to a back problem, remains convinced that Liverpool will bounce back and achieve their target of Champions League qualification.
With Coutinho’s sickness bug coming on the back of Sadio Mane joining Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson on the injured list, it’s been far from plain sailing for the third placed Reds.
Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United are all in hot pursuit but Klavan believes the unity in Klopp’s depleted squad will come to the fore during the run-in.
“It wasn’t good (against Bournemouth) but there are plenty of games left and we have to keep on fighting and believing,” he said.
Benik Afobe of Bournemouth and Ragnar Klavan of Liverpool battle to win a header on Wednesday night
“We are one team, we always stick together in the good times and the bad times. This is also the reason I believe we can finish in the top four because of the team spirit.
“We know we have had bad luck this season with injuries and stuff but we keep on fighting with that spirit.”
Next up is a tricky trip to Stoke City on Saturday and Klavan says that Liverpool must be prepared for a “big fight”.
Mark Hughes’ side have slipped down to 12th place on the back of three successive league defeats. However, Chelsea are the only Premier League team to win away to the Potters since November.
“It’s always a big fight,” Klavan added. “It could be more physical. Their playing style is a bit different.
“There are going to be some really tough games for us coming up.
“It is going to be tight. The lower teams have the pressure of getting points to stay in the league. It makes it interesting, for sure, but either way it doesn’t make it easy for us.”