After an impressive and unbeaten September, Jurgen Klopp won the Premier League Manager of the Month prize for the first time. Klopp was clearly deserving of the award after his best spell since arriving at Anfield, and he was delighted to receive the award, even if the announcement of fixture changes put a dampener on it for the German, who revealed to the press:
Unfortunately a second ago I saw the new fixtures! Of course it’s a nice prize… I didn’t know about these prizes existing until David Wagner got it last month. Are you journalists involved? Then no thanks to you!
On the topic of fixtures, Klopp humorously criticised Raymond Verheijen as he explained why he was unhappy at the fixture changes. The Dutch fitness coach is a vocal critic of Klopp’s pressing approach on Twitter, claiming it leads to injuries, which the German says will be inevitable. With two games in 48 hours after televised games led to changes in the fixture list, Klopp repeated his frustrations that there is no winter break in England, saying:
I’m not too happy in this moment. We have less than 48 hours between playing Man City and Sunderland. I don’t know if we can do anything… Our job is to do everything we can to work games. I would never say Boxing Day is not a good idea because I love it. Now having a match day with two days between (City and Sunderland), I don’t know why we play on Monday… We sit here, you ask me: injuries. Then, this Dutch guy, the funny athletic coach says it’s not too good.
Injuries could also play a part in Monday night’s fixture, as Klopp revealed that he would not rule out Georgino Wijnaldum or Adam Lallana, whilst Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren should be fit to start. The clash is one of the biggest of the season, and he explained that the players must be aware of the spectacle that the occasion is and refused to play down the fixture as Jose Mourinho has done. Klopp said:
Very intense game, two good sides. The situations are not that different – it’s three points. They have big quality and we have to respect this, as we do. But this is Anfield. We have to show this. We have had a few nice atmospheres but I’m open for the best atmosphere. We need everybody in a Liverpool shirt in this game. The more interest, the more difficult it is, but the more excited everybody is. It will never, ever, be a normal game.
Klopp insisted that the approach of his players must be at the top of their game, particularly after he critcised his squad for a slow start to the game at Swansea City almost proving costly before the international break. Keen to avoid any overreaction from his players though, he also maintained the need to be “cool” and controlled in the game, perhaps hoping to avoid the kind of emotions that saw Steven Gerrard sent off minutes after coming on in his last ever clash between the sides, saying:
You cannot and should not ignore the special circumstance of a game like this. You have to be ready. You need to be emotional but cool, direct but patient. Like in all the games of course, but also the best games.
But he remains convinced that it is too early for the Reds to start getting involved in the hype of what many are labelling a title push. Klopp is one of the most down to earth managers in the game and will be desperate to ensure that his side do not get caught up in the excitement, with focus and concentration clearly top of the agenda if the side are to come out of Monday’s clash with the three points as he said:
We have 16pts but with 16pts we can’t win the league. We need more. Apart from the table, it’s a very important game. I know about the history, I like the special stories. The whole world will watch this game, it’s a big honour to be part of it. At the end, it’s up to us to perform to our best.
On the topic of Manchester United, Klopp could not avoid being asked about dropped captain Wayne Rooney. The German revealed that he is an admirer of the England man and sympathised with him, despite his Liverpool loyalties, saying:
Rooney is a goal scorer and a threat. A situation like this can happen in a long career. From my side he’s a world class player.
Quized on the likes of Pogba and Ibrahimovic, who are undoubtedly the key men under Jose Mourinho, Klopp made it clear that he and his coaching team would not be foolish enough to focus solely on them on Monday night. Klopp’s backroom team are well known for their detailed preparations and that will be no different as they prepare for the visit of Mourinho’s men:
They are both world class players, when they’re in your team they are not worst than last year, for sure. Unfortunately this is a really strong side from Manchester, they know about football, they’re experienced, cool in the right moments, they don’t need world class performances to win a game. Even on rainy days, it’s possible to score and win – they have those types in the team, but it doesn’t mean they will win the game. It just means they have a chance.
Klopp will certainly be hoping that they fail to turn up on Monday night, and even if they do, he certainly seems to be preparing his men for a real fight.
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