Jürgen Klopp claims he is really looking forward to playing Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday because – slight dig at José Mourinho alert – “it’s really good to be in a game where both teams are going for everything”.
This is where Klopp came in two years ago, with an away trip to Spurs, and though he gained a point from a scoreless draw on that occasion, he knows how much better Mauricio Pochettino’s team are now.
“They have a fantastic squad and a fantastic manager,” the German says. “They have definitely improved because they have had to. You cannot be in a similar position to the one you held last year if you don’t. The world turns really quickly in relation to football and a lot of things can happen, but what we know about Spurs is that they will always try to win and try to play football. I like it when both sides do everything in their power to win. The Manchester City game was just the same.”
That would be the Manchester City game that Liverpool lost 5-0, though Klopp’s consistent contention is that both teams were evenly matched until Sadio Mané’s dismissal gave the home side a numerical advantage.
Nonetheless, points dropped in that game and subsequently to Burnley, Newcastle and Manchester United mean Liverpool go into their ninth game of the season well off the pace. “Nine points already is unbelievable,” Klopp admits. “But there are still a lot of games to play and no one is going to go through this league like a warm knife through butter, not even Manchester City. They have to play twice against Manchester United, twice against Tottenham, one more against Chelsea and they still have to come here.
“Anyone who saw our game against them will know they are not 20 leagues ahead of us: we were quite good while we still had 11 players on the pitch. People are saying the race is over already because City are flying along at the top of the table, but it may not be like that. I don’t think them being so far ahead increases the pressure on us. We need to go to Tottenham and get a result but we would be doing that anyway.
“I haven’t a clue what is going to happen in the title race but we can still have our best season, and that is the next step.”
Spurs have finished higher than Liverpool for the past three seasons and are on course to do the same again, despite a summer of relatively restrained spending. “They don’t need too many new players, it would be very difficult to go out and find better ones than they already have,” Klopp says. “Everybody talks about Kane, Alli and Eriksen but it’s not as if they only have three players. Three players on their own can do absolutely nothing, but look who is behind them. They have Wanyama, Dembélé and Dier in midfield, and Dier can even play centre‑half.
“We know the quality of Sissoko, and though Son doesn’t play all the time he always seems to decide games when he does. They brought in Davies when Rose was injured – he has made really big steps this season and I didn’t even know him before – and when Walker left they had Trippier to bring in.”
One has the feeling that Klopp’s encyclopaedic knowledge of matters Tottenham is something slightly more than a manager’s general awareness of the threats any given opponents may pose. The Liverpool manager possibly feels he could learn something from the club’s rise under Pochettino, both in terms of cracking the top four and ultimately even ending a long wait for a title. He knows it is not quite true, for instance, that Spurs did not spend any money in summer.
“They already have Vertonghen and Alderweireld, two of the best centre‑halves around at the moment, yet they still took the boy from Ajax [Davinson Sánchez],” he points out. “The other thing is that they don’t just have quality, they don’t have to make many changes because their players are all at the best age. They know they have a generation that can win titles for Tottenham, so they don’t have to keep buying, they can be more relaxed. They have been title contenders for the last two years, so why should they not be this year?”
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