Jürgen Klopp not tempted to change Liverpool’s style for City clash
Manager says high-pressing game can make things ‘unpleasant’ for Guardiola’s men
Jurgen Klopp: “You can’t simply defend against City and hope that they won’t score on the day. They’re just too good.” Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is not about to change his team’s trademark style against Champions League quarter-final opponents Manchester City and believes he can make things “unpleasant” for Pep Guardiola’s side.
City’s dominance in the Premier League has led many teams to try different methods to limit the effectiveness of Pep Guardiola’s tactics and the skill of his players.
Liverpool, though, are the only team to have beaten City in the league this season, with a thrilling 4-3 victory at Anfield in January, and Klopp suggests he will play in a similar style in the first leg on Wednesday.
“The way we attack the opponent, the way we defend high is unpleasant [for our opponents]. If we do that well they will have some difficulty coping with it,” said the German.
“It will be very exciting. There’s no guarantee this will work. In the end it’s the lads on the pitch who will decide the game,” he added.
Key to Liverpool’s approach are the attacking trio of in-form Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, who all scored in the January victory over City but who are also central to the pressing of Guardiola’s defence.
One approach Klopp won’t be taking is simply trying to shut up shop.
“It’ll be about doing more things right than the opponents, because you can’t simply defend against City and hope that they won’t score on the day,” said Klopp. They’re just too good.”
Klopp’s “gegenpressing” style, honed at Borussia Dortmund, involves a rapid swarming of opponents’ territory when they lose the ball, and a high defence to limit space and make good use of high-energy attacking full backs.
Guardiola’s teams, including his former clubs Barcelona and Bayern Munich, enjoy playing out from the back, working the ball swiftly through midfield and using space expertly.
The pressing from Liverpool’s forwards and midfielders tests the ability but Klopp says the two methods are more similar than many think.
“There’s no big difference, actually. It’s just that Pep has always had better teams than me. You can see that now with Manchester City – they have a lot more points than we do. However, that difference has never been as small as it is now. When we coached at Bayern and Dortmund respectively, that difference was really big,” he said.
While much of the credit for City’s success has been given to their manager, Klopp believes City, who are 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League and can clinch the title with a win over Manchester United on Saturday, also owe much of their success to the quality of their players.
“Positioning is important but this is not witchcraft. When the players are in position they move every millisecond in order to be available. And when they are, that’s when the individual quality of the player becomes important,” he said.
“So they’re already well-positioned on the pitch, they are very well orientated and they can pass the ball into the next area. That’s what makes them extraordinary,” Klopp added.