Jurgen Klopp spins tall story

Jurgen Klopp is pragmatic about Manchester United's physical strength and says: "All we can do is try to avoid situations where they can use it. But we have strengths of our own and first we must concentrate on what we do well."
Jurgen Klopp is pragmatic about Manchester United's physical strength and says: "All we can do is try to avoid situations where they can use it. But we have strengths of our own and first we must concentrate on what we do well."PHOTO: REUTERS

Reds' manager uses humour to explain how he will overcome height disadvantage

LONDON • "We have already started to stretch our players," Jurgen Klopp said, bringing laughter from his press room audience.

For the Liverpool manager is not responding to yet another question about the intensity of his training regimen, but considering how his side might cope with Manchester United's height advantage (Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 1.95m tall while Liverpool's central defenders have an average height of 1.89m) in today's north-west derby in the English Premier League.

"Seriously, though, I would imagine that if United start putting their tall players in the box, they will be fighting for the result. And for that to happen, it must mean that something we did must have worked pretty well," the German said.

"We know about United's physical strength and we cannot do anything to change it. All we can do is try to avoid situations where they can use it. But we have strengths of our own and first we must concentrate on what we do well."

What Liverpool do well under Klopp is score goals.

In the year since the German arrived in England, no Premier League team have scored more goals and Liverpool went into the international break as joint top scorers this season, along with the league leaders, Manchester City.

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    Jurgen Klopp is pragmatic about Manchester United's physical strength and says: "All we can do is try to avoid situations where they can use it. But we have strengths of our own and first we must concentrate on what we do well."

    Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

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    Jurgen Klopp is pragmatic about Manchester United's physical strength and says: "All we can do is try to avoid situations where they can use it. But we have strengths of our own and first we must concentrate on what we do well."

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man United)

There may still be some defensive uncertainties, mostly surrounding the goalkeeping position and cover for the backline, but going forward Liverpool have some silky options.

Sadio Mane is already being described as one of the shrewdest signings of summer, even at a cost of £34 million. And before he picked up an injury, Adam Lallana was arguably the most improved English player.

Mane has three goals in six games for Liverpool, while Ibrahimovic has four in seven for United. But the Swede plays as an out-and-out striker whereas the former Southampton player operates from midfield.

Ibrahimovic has the height to trouble Liverpool in the air, though Mane is one of several home players with the pace and alertness to cause problems for United's defence.

Klopp also does not have to work out whether Wayne Rooney should feature in his attack, as Jose Mourinho does. The whole Rooney issue has been bothering United all season, since Mourinho perhaps unwisely insisted he would be using the player only as a striker. As a result, United are still unsure about their best attacking line-up.

Klopp, in contrast, has acted with conviction, moving Christian Benteke out, keeping faith with Divock Origi, and bringing in Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum (who is recovering from an injury) to act as a supporting cast for Daniel Sturridge.

"I am quite happy with the offensive part of our game, but, even if we have scored a lot of goals, we still have to show we can score goals in the future," Klopp said.

"Going into this game, everyone seems to have the feeling that we are in a good way and they (United) are not in a good way, but, if you look at the league table, there is only a three-point difference. That's absolutely nothing.

"We only think about their quality, and they have big quality. If you have one second where you don't concentrate, you can lose the game. That's how it is. There's not a big difference between the teams."

The managers met once last season, at Stamford Bridge when the Liverpool manager was still new to England, and though Mourinho had problems of his own at Chelsea, he still complained about Klopp's theatricality in the technical area and the extent to which the German badgered the fourth official.

 

"I have to accept that not everyone is 100 per cent happy with my performances on the sidelines," Klopp said.

"But I'm not as intense as I used to be when I was younger. Sometimes it still happens, but actually now at Anfield with the new stand, there is much more space for all of us."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Klopp spins tall story'. Print Edition | Subscribe