Big Match

Klopp to Kop: Be the 12th man

Reds boss rallies fans for a game that, if they win, would see them 9 points ahead of City

Liverpool fans holding up a banner of manager Jurgen Klopp before the Champions League match against Genk at Anfield on Wednesday.
Liverpool fans holding up a banner of manager Jurgen Klopp before the Champions League match against Genk at Anfield on Wednesday. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Liverpool have lived through many false dawns in the 29 years since last lifting an English league title, but the class of 2019-20 have the chance to prove they are the real deal when Premier League champions Manchester City visit Anfield today.

The two best teams in the English top-flight renew a rivalry that defined last season's title race and may do so again, providing Pep Guardiola's injury-hit Manchester City keep up with Liverpool.

Another win for Jurgen Klopp, who has beaten a team led by Pep Guardiola more times than any other manager (eight wins out of 17 meetings), would represent a monumental step for the Reds, who are unbeaten at home in the league since April 2017.

The visitors have not won at Anfield in 16 years and will be missing Ederson, David Silva, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Rodri, in addition to long-term absentees Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte.

The hosts, on the other hand, have no injury concerns, but Klopp is still expecting "a proper game" from whoever Guardiola puts out.

Ahead of the top-of-the-table clash, he said: "It's a big game, two really good teams face each other.

"The best news is it's at Anfield, which is really cool. Floodlights, everything is prepared for a good football game.

"Everything is on a plate, nobody hides anything. We both try to deny the strengths of the other, which we have to do."

Klopp's men have lost just once in their past 50 league games, but that defeat at City in January a deciding factor in an epic title tussle that saw just one point separate both teams last term. The consistency of both sides has arguably seen this fixture become English football's biggest game in recent seasons.

Admitting their rivalry was "getting bigger and bigger", Klopp said: "I am here for four years, so what can I say about traditions?

"If you speak about 50 or 60 years ago, it could then be probably completely different. We live now and obviously, City is a pretty good football team and that means, of course, there's a rivalry.

"Thank God there is a rivalry because that means we are not in bad place as well."

While he refuted suggestions that the title could be sewn up with a victory today, as every "game we play is the most decisive of the season", he called on his players to be "brave" and for the home faithful to act as the 12th man.

"We have to play our best game, everybody in the stadium has to be in absolutely top shape," the German added. "The guys who sell the hot dogs have to be in top shape."

While he came in for some criticism for failing to make big-money signings in the summer, the Reds boss yesterday told the Times of London it was down to "not wanting to make five or six changes".

The European champions' fine form this campaign has justified the lack of transfer activity and he also claimed that "there's space for improvement as the team is at a wonderful age".

City have shelled out over a billion euros (S$1.5 billion) over the last decade in the pursuit of silverware, but Klopp insisted there was no need "to compare" as we "don't struggle with convincing players to join us".



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 10, 2019, with the headline 'Klopp to Kop: Be the 12th man'. Print Edition | Subscribe