Premier League: Liverpool v Crystal Palace
Kick-off: 8.15pm, Wednesday. Venue: Anfield. On TV: Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp believes the importance of the Premier League title to Liverpool will ensure he feels more support inside an empty Anfield on Wednesday than during his first, "lonely" encounter against Crystal Palace in 2015.
Victory over Palace would be enough to secure Liverpool's first league championship for 30 years should Manchester City drop points at Chelsea on Thursday.
Roy Hodgson's team would be a fitting opponent for the Liverpool manager to complete his transformation. Klopp suffered his first defeat as Liverpool manager against Palace in November 2015 – when Yannick Bolasie and Scott Dann scored in a 2-1 win – and Palace were the last visiting team to win at Anfield in the Premier League in April 2017. Liverpool are unbeaten in 55 home league fixtures since that reverse, winning 45 and drawing 10.
That first Palace defeat sparked a furious outburst from the newly-appointed Liverpool manager, who shouted at supporters for leaving Anfield before the final whistle and claimed the exodus left him feeling completely alone.
The experience will not be repeated behind closed doors on Wednesday, he insisted, when Liverpool – with Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson available to start – could put themselves on the cusp of the title.
“On that day I felt literally alone because so many people left the stadium and I thought it was important that night to make a statement that things had to change,” recalled Klopp.
“We had to change and supporters could change as well if they wanted to help. I’ve never felt alone again since then, honestly, and I will not feel alone when something special will happen whenever it will happen.”
Only Adam Lallana remains at Liverpool from the team that started against Palace almost five years ago, along with three of the substitutes – Dejan Lovren, Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi. Klopp believes the reaction to that defeat, and his appeal for unity in particular, was the turning point in Liverpool's fortunes.
The Liverpool manager explained: “We didn’t have a massive masterplan behind it and think ‘We have to sell him, him and him and bring in him, him and him’. Not that night, for sure. It was a cold night against Palace, I remember that, but I don’t know too much about that time any more.
“The only thing I know is that the team we had at the time was the basis for what we have now. They created the mood that we could build on, even if the mood was not that good in the moment. We had to use the fact that people wanted to change things. If people don’t want to change and think everything is fine because a new manager is coming then nobody is bothered.
“The situation was our starting point and losing to Crystal Palace that night maybe helped more because I could make this kind of statement after the game. It was not planned, it was just what I felt in this moment, and it helped us to come together closer because people discussed the influence of supporters in the stadium that night. They had to think about it and thought ‘Okay, we are not just there for the start and for 80 minutes of the game, the team needs us for 95 or 100 minutes or however long it will go’. That was important.
“A lot of things have changed, I couldn’t tell you how many players, but the team at that time was not so bad and the team now is a pretty good one. A lot of things we did in the past obviously worked out and may that continue forever! That would be really cool.”