Jürgen Klopp has said he is relishing a first visit to Goodison Park after watching the Rocky spin-off Creed. Liverpool make the short trip across Stanley Park on Monday for the 227th Merseyside derby and Klopp’s debut at Goodison.
The corresponding fixture last season was Brendan Rodgers’ final game as Liverpool manager and, though his successor watched the 1-1 draw on television, he took more notice of his rivals’ stadium when deciding to watch the Hollywood film after the club’s Christmas party on Thursday.
Creed, starring WBC cruiserweight champion and Evertonian Tony Bellew, featured a fight sequence filmed at Goodison Park and left its mark on Klopp, a self-confessed Rocky fan.
“Yesterday I watched the movie Creed and that was my first impression of Goodison Park. It will be very special to be at Goodison for the first time,” the Liverpool manager said. “Even though the favourite is from Liverpool I had sympathy with the other guy. I was at Chapel Street with the staff at the Christmas party and when I came home there was nothing to do. I decided to watch a film and it was Creed. I didn’t know it was part of Goodison Park – a complete coincidence.
“When I was much younger I tried to use the story of Rocky IV – Ivan Drago and Rocky and that stuff – in a team meeting. And a few minutes into it I realised nobody knew what I was talking about. Rocky is a wonderful story, Maybe sometime I will go the steps in Philadelphia. But not this week.”
Klopp, who confirmed Simon Mignolet will retain his place in goal ahead of Loris Karius, admits he is expecting an atmosphere similar to that generated during Everton’s late win over Arsenal on Tuesday. The game, he said, is: “Very, very, very, very big. The good thing around the derby is that I don’t need to say a lot. It is a very important period and moment in the season.
“Both teams after the last game are in good mood. We watched the [Arsenal] game together at the hotel in Middlesbrough. You could see the atmosphere was good. We were excited about the game so it was intense. It will be a real battle, two good teams against each other and my first time there at Goodison.”
Liverpool are unbeaten in the last 12 derbies – losing only one of the last 19 – and Klopp is acutely aware of the significance of the game in the city. “I’m part of Liverpool,” he explained. “It is really easy for me to accept the importance of the game. I like how Liverpool the city lives with these two big clubs. I never had any issue with any Evertonian fans. All, maybe not all, a lot of nice people support Everton and I respect this.
“I’m quite good in adapting in these situations. I’m already in a very positive mood. I’m looking forward to it. These are the games you want. I have said football is not the most important thing in the world but on Monday night for 90 minutes in and around Liverpool it probably is.”
The Liverpool manager expects Emre Can to be available against Everton having missed the last two games with a knee ligament problem but Joël Matip remains doubtful with an ankle injury. Matip missed the midweek victory at Middlesbrough and Klopp admits the defender’s recovery has not been straightforward.
He said: “It just needs time. There will be no surgery, there is not even a risk of it. It is only about resting the injury or not – try it every day or give it a few days. That is what we already did.
“Against West Ham it was possible to play but then against Middlesbrough it was not. Bournemouth he was involved in the squad and then we made the decision. It is in the moment. It is not perfect because we have no time so you can’t say: ‘This game isn’t really important or whatever.’ The other boys are doing really good but we have to see.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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