Friday 15 December 2017

Klopp fired up for 'mother of all football games'

Jurgen Klopp described the Liverpool-Manchester United encounter as 'the mother of all games' Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Jurgen Klopp described the Liverpool-Manchester United encounter as 'the mother of all games' Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

Liverpool have inflamed passions for the visit of Manchester United in the Europa League, with manager Jurgen Klopp describing it as "mother of all games" and Adam Lallana targeting a "revenge" mission following successive defeats to the north west rivals.

Louis van Gaal has won all four of his meetings against the Merseyside club since taking over at Old Trafford, but he will find Klopp and his squad in a bullish mood at Anfield today.

The German coach spoke about leading a "different Liverpool" to the side who lost to United in January, with the availability of Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Philippe Coutinho as crucial to his plans.

Having already announced his wish to draw United in the round of 16, Klopp put one in mind of a giddy child on Christmas Eve in the build-up to the game.

"I said after the draw I am really happy with this game but not because I think it is easy, but because it is absolutely exciting for everyone," he said.

"I didn't know it was the first time Manchester United and Liverpool will meet each other in Europe. I don't believe in enemies in football, but I believe in real opponents.

"I have no problem with Louis van Gaal, but the last thing I want is he will win in a game like this.Games like this are the mother of all football games. That is what you really want when you are young. You don't have to think about concentration, you are concentrated. It is a big challenge but it is the best thing you can do in football."

Amid some caustic criticism of Liverpool and United for dropping out of the European elite, Klopp rejected the idea that the fixture has been diminished because it is in the second tier of UEFA competition.

"It is a great tournament and now everybody knows that," he said. "All of Liverpool and all of the Liverpool world is really excited about this game and this chance.

"What is Champions League level? I saw in the Champions League a lot of rubbish games. It is not about the tournament - it is about the teams who are involved.

"I know Liverpool and Manchester United always want to be part of the Champions League, but the Europa league is very exciting. It is a long way to go but now we can see the line. Now there are only top top quality teams in this tournament.

"From now it is something like a little Champions League. If you want it is a big game, if you don't then you don't know football. At this moment, it is the biggest game I can imagine."

Having lost his only meeting with United as Liverpool's manager - a 1-0 defeat - Klopp says having a fuller squad is critical, although he may be without James Milner with a virus.

"It will be a completely different situation. We are in a better situation," he said. "We have more players available so we can make changes when we want. This is the best moment for us to play very important games.

"I remember the last one we lost and we were not at our best but we played good enough to win. One moment decided the game. It means nothing. It would mean more if they were much better than we are but it's pretty close. We are both in a good moment."

For Lallana, the pain of defeats to United will spur on the players.

"The way results have gone against United over the last couple of seasons, it is a chance to put things right and get some revenge," he said.

"The manager said before the Palace game that was a chance for us to get some revenge on them as they had beaten us. It's the same kind of reaction against United. It's massive.

"I have been here long enough to realise what it means to everyone at the football club. As a player this is what you want - big games with big pressure, especially when you come out on top."


Lallana knows there will be changes to the squad this summer and players are eager to avoid the cull. "Everybody is in the same boat," said Lallana. "The season has been inconsistent. We have had some disappointing results and some great results.

"People are going to talk about him maybe wanting to bring his own players in. If we go on a good run then he might not feel the need to dip into the transfer market as much as he might have wanted to a couple of months ago. I'm sure he has plans and we will have to wait to see what happens."

Lallana is one of those who does seem to have earned Klopp's confidence, tending to be selected - when fit - for the biggest fixtures because he adapts to the pressing style.

But he admits the side need to win the trust they can perform every week rather than just occasionally. "Finding the right balance, too," he said. "We have had a lot of injuries. I don't think since he has been here we have had a fully fit squad to choose from and he has more or less got that now.

"At times, you all know, the injury list has been quite ridiculous. I'm sure he will take that into consideration.

"Personally, I will keep fighting as I always have and hopefully I will be in his long-term plans."

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