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Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet says he has 'fought the world' during his time at Anfield

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Liverpool's Simon Mignolet has claimed he has had to "fight the world" to retain his place as the Reds number one goalkeeper.

The 29-year-old is gearing up for the 229th Merseyside Derby with Everton at the weekend having sat out of the 7-0 demolition of Spartak Moscow in midweek.

 

And Mignolet is keen to keep the winning run going having never been on the losing side in eight previous Merseyside derbies.

Confidence is high after the victory for Jurgen Klopp's men midweek, and Everton have failed to win at Anfield in 18 years.

But the Belgium international says the Blues’ improvement under new boss Sam Allardyce commands respect.

“I don’t really like those stats because stats like that are there to be changed,” Mignolet told the Liverpool Echo .

“Yes, we’ve had a lot of success in the derbies but this is a new game. It’s a different picture with a new manager at Everton.

“It’s only his second league game in charge. They have won two on the bounce and will be in a good mood. They will feel like they have nothing to lose.

“It will be tougher than it looked a few weeks ago. Sam is an experienced manager and knows what’s required to stay in the Premier League.

“No-one needs motivating for a game like this. It’s exciting. I love playing in these games. It’s always been a great fixture for us and we’re going into it in excellent form.

“We’re back up in the top four which is where we want to be but we want to keep chasing the guys in front of us.”

Liverpool have taken 16 points out of the last 18 on offer in the Premier League and Mignolet has played his part in that thrilling resurgence.

At Brighton last weekend he made a crucial save to deny Glenn Murray and within 15 seconds Roberto Firmino had provided the finishing touch to a devastating counter-attack to kill off the Seagulls.

It was telling that when the ball hit the net, James Milner, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold all raced over to celebrate with Mignolet.

“As a keeper you aren’t usually involved in the celebrations,” he said.

“I’m not really one to run the length of the field. I only did that once and that was when Dejan got the winner against Dortmund.

“It was a big moment at Brighton. If they had made it 2-1 it would have been a different game but luckily I made the save and our quick boys did the job on the counter.

“It was a good feeling. They are the moments as a keeper that you enjoy the most - making a big save and then seeing your team-mates score.”

There have been plenty of ups and downs since Mignolet arrived from Sunderland for £9million in the summer of 2013. He’s been written off numerous times and has battled back from the brink.

He likens the job of holding on to the No 1 spot to “fighting the whole world”. But he remains the man in possession of the jersey and his affinity with the club and the city is undeniable.

“It’s not easy to stay at Liverpool for a long time,” he said.

“Only Hendo (Jordan Henderson), Studge (Daniel Sturridge), Philippe (Coutinho) and Flanno (Jon Flanagan) have been here longer.

“It’s such a big club and you are not only fighting for your position in the dressing room, you’re also fighting against the whole world.

“Liverpool Football Club can attract any player, really. To stay here and be the goalkeeper, where there is only position to fill, makes it even harder.

“When I was young if I had thought about playing for Liverpool everyone would have told me that I was nuts. Now I’ve been here four-and-a-half years and it’s become like my second home.

“Stoke away was my 400th career game and Brighton away was my 150th Premier League appearance for this club. It’s nice to look back, reflect and think about the journey so far. I’m only 29 and 400 is already a big number.

“To play so many games at a young age shows I’ve been able to stay fit and healthy. Some of that is down to good luck with not getting injuries but also one of my strengths is I’m robust and look after my body the best that I can.

“I’m closing in on 200 games for Liverpool - that should come away to Arsenal just before Christmas. I’m proud but at the same time you have to stay focused and keep your feet on the floor to make sure you continue in the same way.”

Having helped the Reds qualify for the Champions League, missing out on playing in the competition this term has been tough for Mignolet to take. Klopp opted to give Loris Karius the honour of European duties.

Mignolet said: “It’s never easy to sit and watch. The gaffer makes those decisions and does what’s best for the team. We have to accept that.

“I’ve never been one to throw in the towel. I can only work as hard as possible on the training pitch to maintain my level and keep my spot in the Premier League.

“There’s something in the back of my mind always pushing me on. In football things can turn very quickly. Take what happened at Stoke recently, I could have been sent off and then the guy on the bench would have been needed to step on.

“You always have certain moments where you could have done better but I feel like in the games I’ve played I’ve managed to do my job.”

Criticism is never far away. But he has learned to switch off and ignore it.

“I don’t take any notice,” he said. “If I’ve played well or if I’ve played badly, I don’t need to be told. I always analyse my games in the most critical of ways.

“Everyone has an opinion and they’re entitled to that. With all the social media, people can vent those opinions. You have to accept it, it comes with playing for a club as big as Liverpool.

“I think keepers have always needed to have a thick skin but probably even more so these days.”

Mental strength is key and Mignolet credits top sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters for helping him during some dark periods. Most notably in 2014/15 when Mignolet lost his place to Brad Jones and was ridiculed after coming off the bench at Burnley on Boxing Day.

I worked with Steve when he was at the club. He helped me a lot, especially after that Burnley game in terms of thinking more clearly,” he added.

“I took it on board. I didn’t need to see him again after that. These days I tend to stick to my routine and what I learned from seeing him. I think I’m wise enough to deal with it myself now. I have more than enough support with family and friends. In tough times they are the ones you go back to.”

It was a sign of Mignolet’s growing status in the dressing room that Klopp gave him the captaincy when neither Jordan Henderson nor James Milner started against West Ham and Stoke.

He said: “Two times, two wins as captain so far so it’s brought some luck!

“It’s a big honour, especially when you look at the names who have worn the armband before. It means a lot that the gaffer has shown me that kind of support to lead the way out. It shows that he trusts me.”

There was a time when Mignolet would have been pacing around anxiously before a contest like Sunday’s visit of the Blues but not anymore.

 

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