The Big Match

Klopp to energise Reds

Spurs the first test of German's focus on team spirit, bravery as pivotal attributes

The Liverpool supporters might have been happy to see him leave. The Tottenham players must surely have been. Because, whatever Brendan Rodgers' other flaws, his teams tended to be terrific against Spurs. They won their last five meetings, scoring 18 goals.

Instead, Rodgers was removed. Given their wretched record against the sacked manager, Spurs might be pleased to see Juergen Klopp. Most have been, with the German receiving a euphoric reception from both the Liverpool fans and the wider community.

Klopp seems the most exciting managerial arrival in England since Jose Mourinho joined Chelsea in 2004. He arrived exuding both charisma and energy.

His debut is a chance to see if he can imbue Liverpool with those attributes because, too often, they have been lacking.

The German wants bravery and fighting spirit, athleticism and a collective spirit.

The teamsheet will be scrutinised for the first clues about who is deemed a Klopp player.

A devotee of 4-2-3-1 when he won back-to-back Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund, he is likely to abandon Rodgers' rather contrived 3-4-1-2.

With other forwards injured, Daniel Sturridge must lead the line while it is logical to restore the makeshift defender Emre Can to the midfield. But, as Rodgers discovered, Liverpool's squad includes too many players in some positions and too few in others.

The broader issue is of how quickly they adapt to Klopp's style of play, if they can play his "heavy-metal football". Because, with Mauricio Pochettino a kindred spirit, this has the makings of one high-speed pressing team facing another who have the same approach but do it even quicker.

Perhaps, it is too early to expect Klopp's Liverpool to swarm around Spurs, Dortmund style.

Spurs' major wins, most recently the 4-1 triumph against Manchester City, came when they ended up overwhelming opponents, first exhausting and then defeating them.

Klopp shares a similar ethos.

But, with Danny Ings, Christian Benteke, Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino injured, the newcomer may have the inferior personnel today.

Certainly, most of the players behind Liverpool's thrashings of Spurs have either been sold or are unavailable while Pochettino now has a better defensive record, which is the joint best in the league. The Belgian duo of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld have brought a solidity Liverpool have lacked.

Christian Eriksen's two-goal return to form at Swansea last week was a reminder of his talent and Pochettino's side are taking shape. But he had a 16-month head start on Klopp and the attention will be focused on the visitors, to see if they can be transformed and galvanised by a man who seems a force of nature.

Klopp had charmed the onlookers at his Anfield unveiling last week by branding himself the "Normal One".

On the other hand, the euphoric reception he received has been distinctly abnormal and this should be anything but a normal occasion today.

TOTTENHAM V LIVERPOOL
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'KLOPP TO ENERGISE REDS'. Print Edition | Subscribe