No friends on the pitch

Klopp & Wagner to cast aside their enduring friendship at Anfield with too much at stake

LONDON • When Huddersfield beat Reading on penalties last season to secure Premier League status, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp "cried like a baby".

The victory ensured his best friend David Wagner's side would travel to venues like Anfield, where they will play today.

It will be the first competitive meeting between the duo - former room-mates and team-mates at German club Mainz some 26 years ago.

"This now, Anfield, he in one dugout, I in one dugout, this will be strange for sure," said Wagner, the best man when Klopp married writer Ulla Sandrock in 2005.

"If we score the winner, I will celebrate for sure. And I know he will celebrate as well if they score the winner!"

Huddersfield arrive on a high after beating Manchester United last Saturday for the first time since 1952, which moved the Terriers up to 11th place after nine matches.

A win over Liverpool would lift them above the Reds and increase the pressure that is building on Klopp, godfather to Wagner's daughter Lynn.

Poor league form - plus an early exit in the League Cup - has left the Reds already 12 points adrift of leaders Manchester City. Liverpool have conceded 16 league goals so far - their worst defensive record at this stage of a season since 1964-65.

Klopp has to decide whether to leave out Dejan Lovren after the centre-back performed so poorly against Tottenham last Sunday that he was substituted after just 31 minutes. He could bring in Ragnar Klavan or stick with Joe Gomez, who moved across from right-back into the centre for the final hour at Wembley, where Liverpool lost 1-4.

If Gomez plays at centre-back, Trent Alexander-Arnold will likely fill the right-back position. Influential playmaker Philippe Coutinho is a major doubt due to a groin injury.

Klopp has had better Wembley memories, even if he was not at the stadium when Huddersfield earned promotion from the Championship in May.

"I was nervous like hell," Klopp revealed in a Sky Sports documentary titled Hearts & Mainz: Klopp & Wagner.

"And afterwards, Ulla sent (Wagner) a video of me crying like a baby when it happened, the final penalty, as I could not stop."

The only certainty today is another emotional day for the two Germans.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2017, with the headline 'No friends on the pitch'. Print Edition | Subscribe