Saturday 18 November 2017

‘Positive aggression’ key to Jurgen Klopp’s Mersey mission

Derby rivals crank up pressure with more at stake than local bragging rights

Jurgen Klopp and Ronald Koeman will go head-to-head at Anfield today when Liverpool take on Everton in the 228th Merseyside derby. Photo: Getty
Jurgen Klopp and Ronald Koeman will go head-to-head at Anfield today when Liverpool take on Everton in the 228th Merseyside derby. Photo: Getty

Chris Bascombe

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp could be forgiven for thinking there is a cavalry charge heading across Stanley Park today.

Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles left no room for doubt when summing up his club's best approach to securing victory in the Merseyside derby at Anfield. "We need to kill them - that's it," said the Spaniard.

In fairness, there was mischief rather than venom in that threat but it was reflective of the buoyancy at Goodison Park since the last derby.

Today's fixture is not only a chance for Everton to end a barren run at Anfield but to reduce the gap in the Premier League table between the sides to three points.

Given Liverpool were title contenders when Sadio Mane struck the 94th-minute winner last December, that is a shift in momentum Klopp can ill afford as he seeks to secure a Champions League place.

"It is opportunity, not pressure," said Klopp, when asked if his side has more to lose. "What I have learned is that it helps if you don't think too much about the pressure in games like this. We all know how important it is for everybody.

"The pressure is always there. We need positive aggression. Not that we want to show that we are really ready to make crazy challenges or whatever but we are ready to hurt ourselves. That is how I understand it. I don't remember one game that wasn't important this season and last season I remember Everton were under a little pressure.

"My colleague (Roberto Martinez) was sacked a few weeks later. The hype around a derby is 100pc right and OK.

"I would really prefer that we win it - then life is a bit better. But since the last game we played, Everton have made a big step," Klopp added.

"Everyone knows it is very important. Now we have to show it and not talk about it."

Everton manager Ronald Koeman believes that his players have been travelling to Anfield with fear in recent seasons, which may go some way to explaining the extremes with which Robles is prepared to go this time around.

Naturally, Koeman is rather more circumspect in his language but feels his Everton side is now better equipped.

"I think so," he said. "The team is stronger and has a different mentality, more aggression and more of the intensity that you need to play against Liverpool, but you need to show it.

"It's not a case of being afraid exactly, but not being afraid to play in a certain way.

"You know they will press and be aggressive and maybe Everton were not prepared in the best way for a game with that type of football.

"At home we went face-to-face and maybe 98 minutes was too long but that was a good impression of how I like to play and how we need to play against Liverpool."

Derbies are supposed to be wild, unpredictable affairs but when Liverpool face Everton at home, the form book has refused to hurl itself out of the nearest available window.

You would have to go back to a Monday night in September 1999 for Everton's last victory at Anfield - a game that ended with Liverpool down to nine men after two red cards, one shown to a 19-year-old Steven Gerrard for a waist-high lunge on the Everton goalscorer, Kevin Campbell.

Gerrard had come on as a substitute, telling himself to "belt a Bluenose". He returned to the dressing room to a text message from his father calling him an idiot, or words to that effect. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Liverpool v Everton,
Live, Sky Sports 1, 12.30

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