Football: Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp itching to take on title rivals Manchester City

Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (top) celebrating with Adam Lallana after scoring the Reds' second goal against Stoke. Firmino had been a doubt to play after being arrested on Christmas Eve for drink driving.
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (top) celebrating with Adam Lallana after scoring the Reds' second goal against Stoke. Firmino had been a doubt to play after being arrested on Christmas Eve for drink driving.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Klopp eager to face title rivals after Liverpool come from behind to brush aside Stoke 4-1

LONDON • Liverpool showcased their attacking force in front of visiting Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, before Jurgen Klopp set his sights on beating his rival in Saturday's "special" match at Anfield.

Guardiola was left with plenty to ponder as he witnessed the free-scoring Reds move back into second place in the English Premier League table with a 4-1 win over Stoke City on Tuesday.

City, who are a point behind Liverpool after 18 games, visit Anfield on New Year's Eve with both sides aware that a defeat will undermine their hopes of reining in Chelsea at the top of the table.

"It is a big game for both," Klopp said after the victory, which was secured with goals by Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and a Giannelli Imbula own goal.

"I heard Pep Guardiola was in the stadium tonight. I'm not sure if he watched a lot of games in the last few weeks in other stadiums of opponents - but that is a first sign it is a special game and we are already looking forward to it.

QUALITY MATCH EXPECTED

It will be a difficult game for both teams, but exciting, and the best thing is that it is at Anfield. City are an outstanding side. We are not too bad, so it will be a nice game.

'' JURGEN KLOPP , Liverpool manager, on facing Manchester City on New Year's Eve.

"It will be a difficult game for both teams, but exciting, and the best thing is that it is at Anfield. City are an outstanding side. We are not too bad, so it will be a nice game."

The German - a direct rival of Guardiola's when the pair were in charge of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively in Germany - admitted that it can be difficult to go to see opposition teams in action these days because the Premier League's top managers risk spending more time signing autographs than actually watching games.

"I respect them a lot, but I was not in the City stadium this season or last season (to watch), only to play games. Maybe (he wanted) to watch good football," said Klopp.

"Michael Edwards, our sporting director, sent me the message that Pep was in the stadium. I am thinking about the next game. Hopefully we can do better. We can do better than we did tonight; tonight, it was okay."

Liverpool displayed resilience after falling behind for the first time at home this season, and then their quality shone.

They have now won eight and drawn two of 10 games at Anfield this season and have not been beaten in front of their own fans in 23 games going back to January.

 

City can therefore expect to face a daunting task but Stoke - the last visiting team to win at Anfield - had looked like they could spring a surprise after Jonathan Walters put them in front in the 12th minute.

However, Lallana equalised and Firmino's fine strike just before half-time made it 2-1, as Liverpool ran away with the game in the second period.

Firmino's crucial second goal came after he was arrested in the early hours of Christmas Eve and charged with drink driving, but Klopp said that he never had any doubts about selecting the Brazilian forward.

"He was the best man in training, so there was no chance to leave him out," he said.

Daniel Sturridge rounded off the victory after latching on to Ryan Shawcross' misplaced back-pass only 56 seconds after coming on as a substitute and his effort means that Liverpool have scored 100 league goals in 48 games under Klopp.

Only Kenny Dalglish reached the tally in as few matches as the club's incumbent manager.

Liverpool have also recorded 86 goals in the calendar year, with that representing their best return since 1985 - when they hit 87.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes lamented the "individual errors" that contributed to his side's downfall and said: "We've not defended correctly and that's a shame because we came with a good game plan and they didn't deal with it very well. It was disappointing that we ended up conceding four goals.

"Liverpool are a good side, they have got good players and will go close - but whether they're good enough to win (the title), I'm not sure." THE TIMES, LONDON,

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'Reds hot for Man City'. Print Edition | Subscribe