Costa not Reds' target

Klopp focused on stopping Blues as a unit, rather than attempting to bait Conte's 'warrior' striker

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp has said Liverpool must match Diego Costa's aggression at Chelsea today but added that he would never ask his team to provoke an opponent into a red card.

The Chelsea striker has been in fine form for Antonio Conte's team, scoring four goals in four games as well as two for Spain in their 8-0 win over Liechtenstein.

Klopp believes the arrival of the former Italy coach has reinvigorated Costa and the 27-year-old will pose a major threat to Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.

Conte has claimed defenders are setting out to incite Costa because of his combustible nature, but Klopp said Liverpool should focus on stopping Chelsea as an attacking unit rather than seeking to antagonise their leading striker.

The German manager said: "It is not part of my preparation (to provoke Costa). I never said in my life to a team, 'He's always close to a red card, so do whatever you can so he gets it.'

"Antonio has already created a good relationship with him, so he is completely different. He is in good shape, he is aggressive but I didn't see until now any challenges where you could say it should have been a red card. I thought against Swansea it was more a problem for the two defenders.

"Being aggressive is important against him. There will be hard challenges but it is not about having a one-on-one fight for the whole 90 minutes and then saying, 'I took him out of the game.'

"Taking Diego out of the game makes sense but even then other players can create moments, so there are a lot more things to do."

Klopp described Costa as world-class and believes the striker will be "a real warrior" again for Chelsea this season.

Liverpool are confident after beating champions Leicester City 4-1 on Saturday and having produced encouraging away displays at Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur this term.

Chelsea saw their perfect start to the campaign ended by a 2-2 draw at Swansea City in which they went 1-0 up, fell 1-2 behind and then rescued a point through Costa's acrobatic 81st-minute equaliser.

The way Chelsea let Swansea back into the match suggested the vulnerability of last season, when they finished 10th, still lurks.

But Chelsea winger Victor Moses is convinced that Conte's off-pitch adjustments have helped the club.

"I think he is the right man for this club," the Nigeria international told the Chelsea website. "He came in and changed quite a few things.

"He speaks to every player and wants the best from each and every one of us, and he will get the best out of us."

Last season's corresponding fixture, in late October, saw Klopp pull off a 3-1 win.

If the teams' last encounter, in a pre-season friendly in the United States, is anything to go by, today's game could be a spicy affair.

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas was sent off for an ugly foul on Ragnar Klavan, while Liverpool's Marko Grujic went to hospital following a clash of heads with Bertrand Traore.

This could be a spectacular match. The two teams average more shots on goal per game than any others in the division, while Liverpool's players have covered more ground than other teams.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHELSEA V LIVERPOOL
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2016, with the headline 'Costa not Reds' target'. Print Edition | Subscribe