Klopp: Liverpool should not fear Manchester United clash
Manager says Old Trafford showdown provides opportunity for his side to bounce back
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp: “At this moment I’m 100 per cent positive, absolutely looking forward to the game.” Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
Jürgen Klopp has said Liverpool have nothing to fear from Sunday’s visit to Manchester United as a meeting of the fierce north-west rivals provides a perfect opportunity to react to the EFL Cup defeat at Southampton.
Liverpool are four places and five points above José Mourinho’s team, although recent form favours the hosts. United have won nine consecutive matches in all competitions while Chelsea’s closest challengers at the Premier League summit have not won in three, the brief sequence featuring a goalless draw at home to League Two Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup and defeat in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final at St Mary’s Stadium in midweek.
However, Klopp insists there is no reason to head to Old Trafford in trepidation. The Liverpool manager could start Philippe Coutinho for the first time since November and recall the captain, Jordan Henderson, from a heel injury.
“There is nothing to fear,” Klopp said. “What could I fear? At this moment, anything is possible. It could be that United are not at their best level on Sunday, just nobody knows about it yet.
“I don’t fear things like this. I’ve had enough time in the game to realise what happens. At this moment I’m 100 per cent positive, absolutely looking forward to the game.
“I’ve had so many defeats in my life, especially as a player – as a manager, too - that I really know defeat is not the problem. Your reaction to it is the problem. We’ve now had four days to react from a really bad game on our side by playing in a very important game. I love it.
Potential eight-point lead
“That’s how football should be: you can react immediately. So let’s think about this and not what could happen if we can’t do it.”
Liverpool will open a comfortable eight-point lead over their old adversaries with victory at Old Trafford but Klopp denied that would also represent a decisive step in a genuine title challenge from his team.
“I don’t care, actually,” he claimed. “The last thing I think about is if United can come back and overhaul us. It would be a huge gap, of course, but they were already a few points behind a few teams at the top of the table.
“The season is too long, this game decides not a lot actually. At the moment everyone thinks Chelsea will win all their games and I don’t know what they think of Tottenham. The international games come again in February and then it is difficult again.
“The whole of December and January for us is outstandingly intense, which we knew already, but if these two months decide the whole season what were you doing the rest of the season? There is still a lot to be done and a lot of things to fix. So it is always better you win and all the rest draw but you cannot wish. You have to do the work.”
Coutinho’s availability, and substitute’s display at Southampton, is a timely fillip for the Liverpool manager with Sadio Mané on Africa Cup of Nations’ duty with Senegal. Klopp has not been able to select Coutinho, Mané, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana in the same lineup since the 6-1 rout of Watford on 6 November but, with his team only five points behind
Chelsea, he insists there is no reason to rush into the transfer market this month.
The Liverpool manager explained: “The right player for us, if he’s available and if the club he plays for wants to sell him, that’s pretty difficult at this moment because who wants to sell high-quality players? All the other players we don’t need, that’s how it is. You don’t buy a player for one or two games, that makes no sense.
“We have to go through this now. Of course it is not too cool that Sadio is not here. Of course it’s not cool that Phil was injured but is now on the way back. Whether he is at exactly the same level as before the injury is another question because they are all human beings.
“It’s not like they can just perform like this [clicks fingers]. Of course, Daniel [Sturridge] was injured and has come in and needs some rhythm. Joël Matip; in best shape, then he’s out. That’s not cool either.
“But as a squad and as a team you have to go through these situations. You have to take the benefit of being a strong group. You can imagine and believe, we always think about how we can strengthen the squad. There’s absolutely no issue from the owner side. They do not think: winter - too much money. We only think about the right players. Not any player.” Guardian service