Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp defends Neymar over dive claims before PSG clash

LIVERPOOL -- Jurgen Klopp has defended Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar over accusations he goes to ground too easily.

Neymar drew widespread criticism for his theatrics during this summer's World Cup, with the Brazilian later admitting he sometimes exaggerated his reactions.

But speaking ahead of Liverpool's Champions League encounter with PSG on Tuesday night, Klopp said Neymar is well within his right to defend himself when targeted by opponents.

"When I saw a few things at the World Cup, I know people were talking about that when it looked like he made a bit more of situations," Klopp told a news conference on Monday. "It was, for me, a completely a normal reaction because players are really going for him. That's the truth.

"He wants to protect himself and I understand that as well. If an opponent gets a yellow card then he's much closer to a red card. So I see it from that perspective.

"I thought it's smart that he saves himself. He doesn't have to be worried because we don't go for him against us. We play football and we want to win the ball.

"We don't try to act in these kind of things. We try to avoid passes to him and him winning challenges and all that stuff, which is a big job to do, to be honest. I'm not sure if it is even possible to avoid his quality 100 percent. I'm pretty sure it's not.

"At the World Cup, he was not fit. He already had an injury and everybody could see that, but nobody asked him. When he played he really tried to take responsibility to play for his country [while] not being fit. Belgium played an outstanding game against Brazil, but if Neymar is fit then Brazil wins it. That's how it is. He was injured and he had to save himself a bit. That's all.

"I don't think he's a person who wants to act because if you are like that then you cannot play the football he plays.

"I don't think about these kind of things, to be honest. He got rested at the weekend so he will be 100 percent fresh for us. He's not injured anymore so we will see the full package of Neymar -- the football package. We still have to cope with that and that's what we try to do."

Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, stressed that Neymar's perceived diving has not been part of Liverpool's preparation for the Group C opener.

"That's not something we're really thinking about, to be honest," the Liverpool captain said. "Neymar's a world-class player and a tough opponent.

"I'm sure it'll be difficult as a team for us to stop him but we're capable of stopping him and the rest of the team because we've proved that against top players before.

"He obviously gets kicked a lot, so he needs to try and use it as best as he can. For us, we just need to treat it as a normal game. He's just one of many good players in the team. It won't just have to be him, we've got to stop the whole team, which will be difficult. But we're a good team as well and we can certainly cause them problems."

Meanwhile, Roberto Firmino remains a doubt for Liverpool's European opener with the eye injury he sustained against Tottenham Hotspur on the weekend.

Hospital examinations confirmed Firmino suffered an abrasion of the eye after being caught by Spurs' Jan Vertonghen in the second half at Wembley.

"If we play today, no chance," Klopp said. "But we all hope that he has a chance for tomorrow.

"First of all, that's good news that it will be close. I think everybody who saw the picture after the game was shocked.

"We had first contact with him after he was in hospital and that was a big relief for all of us.

"It's painful, nobody wants to have that, nobody needs that. He will be fine -- we only don't know exactly when. It's another 30 hours until the game, so we will see."