THE BIG MATCH

Giant-killer meets Colossus

Juergen Klopp's men rose to the occasion to earn a 3-1 win over Chelsea last month. But the Reds, whose defence was woeful in a loss to Crystal Palace earlier this month, will need to ramp up their vigilance tonight against the league leaders, who bo
Juergen Klopp's men rose to the occasion to earn a 3-1 win over Chelsea last month. But the Reds, whose defence was woeful in a loss to Crystal Palace earlier this month, will need to ramp up their vigilance tonight against the league leaders, who boast potent fire-power. PHOTO: REUTERS

Just as in game against Chelsea, Klopp will need to beat the odds to overcome league leaders City

A giant has been cast in the role of giant-killer. Juergen Klopp was toweringly tall and, after winning two Bundesliga titles, a colossus of a manager. His only league victory with Liverpool came away at the champions, Chelsea. Now, he visits the leaders, Manchester City.

Liverpool used to be English football's dominant club.

Now, they stand 10th and have to take solace from their manager's prowess as an underdog, plus his memorable, controversial 2013 Champions League quarter-final triumph over Manuel Pellegrini when they coached Borussia Dortmund and Malaga respectively.

Other connections are altogether closer. Opposites have common denominators. James Milner is set to skipper Liverpool on his first return to the Etihad Stadium. Daniel Sturridge, the striker City should have done much more to try and keep, could be fit to make his first appearance for Klopp.

Raheem Sterling, whose £49 million (S$106 million) move to City funded much of Liverpool's summer rebuilding, will face his former club for the first time since his acrimonious move. It highlighted the swing from the traditional powers to the new, moneyed forces.

Klopp is seeking to turn back time. His modernist formula contains time-honoured principles of teamwork, spirit and running.

He is asking more of his players.

Milner, signed as a central midfielder, may be used on the flanks, as he was for City.

Philippe Coutinho, scorer of two wonderful Anfield winners against City, is the No. 10 who cut in twice from his new role on the left to strike against Chelsea. He may have similar duties again today.

Yet, Klopp's maiden defeat, by Crystal Palace 13 days ago, was a reminder games have always been won and lost in both boxes. Christian Benteke was wasteful and the Reds' defending dreadful then.

Now, minus Mamadou Sakho, they could face a City side with their full attacking armoury.

City negotiated last month without Sergio Aguero and David Silva.

But they still had Yaya Toure and, by spending £100 million on Kevin de Bruyne and Sterling, afforded themselves other options.

If they field a fantastic five, it will involve dropping either Fernandinho or Fernando. City were more streetwise with the defensively-diligent near-namesakes in harness when winning in Seville but have drawn two of their last three games 0-0. The top scorers may be itching to be more expansive again.

It means the pivotal collision is between Liverpool's defence and City's forward line, especially as Klopp's high pressing game could mean his midfielders are committed far up the pitch.

His fondness for quick transitions could see City with five men stranded upfield when Liverpool launch high-speed breaks.

Klopp, like Pellegrini, can see potent progressive players on the comeback trail but, as at Chelsea, he will have to confound the odds and the talent deficit if he is to record a second famous win.


MANCHESTER CITY V LIVERPOOL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'GIANT-KILLER MEETS COLOSSUS'. Print Edition | Subscribe