By Keith Hackett

26th Aug, 2021 | 6:45am

Hackett: Klopp playing mind games with key man ahead of Liverpool v Chelsea after reveal

Jurgen Klopp’s criticism of refereeing may be an attempt to get in the head of the referee for Liverpool v Chelsea next weekend.

That is the view of ex-FIFA and Premier League official Keith Hackett, speaking exclusively to Football Insider as Klopp slammed the new soft-touch style of refereeing seen in the Premier League so far.

The Reds boss complained to BT Sport after his side’s 2-0 win over Burnley that officiating is not going in the right direction.

He insisted the players need to be protected and suggested those who want to see the game be more physical should “watch wrestling”.

“In the case of Klopp, is he pre-empting next week’s games and trying to influence the match officials?” Hackett told Football Insider correspondent Connor Whitley.

“He may be trying to get in his head and I don’t think that’s helpful to the game.

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“The difficulty that the referee finds himself in is, he can be open to criticism for his application of laws of the game. Contact at times can be a foul.

“Referees are reminded to make an early intervention and to deal firmly with holding offences, especially inside the penalty area at corner kicks and free kicks.

“To deal with those situations there is a three-step process. Any player holding before the ball is in play he needs to deal with it. Caution him if the holding continues before the ball is in play, I’ve never seen that. Then award a free kick or penalty kick and caution the player.

“That is the opportunity the referee has with set-pieces coming into the penalty area.”

“Referees are effectively trying to stretch the law to try and apply the lighter touch. They’re not coming in for every free kick.”

In other news, Liverpool may have the “next Phil Foden” in their ranks after a Klopp reveal.