Big Match

'World Cup final' for Reds

Klopp outlines importance of Merseyside derby as he urges team to 'fight but be fair'

LONDON • The Merseyside derby has always been a fiery affair, but tomorrow's clash at Goodison Park will have an added edge, with Liverpool eager to hold on to their lead at the top of the Premier League table and Everton desperate to claim bragging rights for once.

The last time the Toffees beat their cross-town rivals was in October 2010 under then manager David Moyes and the 18-match winless run against the Reds is their worst in history.

But, while Jurgen Klopp can empathise with the long-suffering home fans and is "generous enough to wish them luck", that magnanimity does not apply when both sides meet "in a World Cup final for us and them".

Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the encounter, he said: "I have had no bad experiences so far with Evertonians. If we are first and second in the table, as long as it is the right first and second (place), I am okay."

Promising to keep his emotions in check unlike the reverse fixture in December, when he was fined £8,000 (S$14,326) for running onto the pitch to celebrate Divock Origi's added-time winner at Anfield, he said at his pre-match press conference yesterday: "I didn't want to do it, it just happened. We are not planning the celebrations, we are planning (for) the game.

"I'm not sure it's possible to be more motivated than we were in the previous derby.

A banner depicting Jurgen Klopp's likeness at Anfield. The Liverpool manager is looking to tomorrow's Merseyside derby as a "World Cup final".
A banner depicting Jurgen Klopp's likeness at Anfield. The Liverpool manager is looking to tomorrow's Merseyside derby as a "World Cup final". PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NO LONGER THE FRIENDLY DERBY

We always want to be very aggressive in the best football way. We are ready to hurt ourselves and not the other guy. We fight for the ball, not the bone. The crowd wants to win and the best way to do that is to keep 11 players on the pitch.

JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, hoping t o keep his players' tempers in check.

"The game was tough and it will be tough again... Hopefully, it has a good end for us."

Klopp also called on his players to "use the loud atmosphere" to fuel their game and "be very aggressive (but) in the best football way".

The German told reporters: "It is a very, very, very important game in the season.

"Not only because of the situation, but because of the history. We are ready to hurt ourselves and not the other guy. We fight for the ball, not the bone.

"I was not involved a lot in crazy games, so for me, it's a misunderstanding. The crowd wants to win and the best way to do that is to keep 11 players on the pitch.

"There have been a few situations in the past where the red cards have played a factor but not recently.

"In the game, it's emotional and passionate - that's how football should be. You're against your opponent constantly and sometimes you forget to support your own team but, at Goodison, they support their team.

"Anything less than 100 per cent and you will lose. We always have pretty good games, but experience tells you, you have to be spot on and fight each fight and stay clear, stay fair and stay aggressive in the most legal way."

The 51-year-old also revealed that Roberto Firmino, who missed their midweek league win over Watford with an ankle injury, was in contention to play.

He said: "Firmino has been out there and running in training yesterday. He is very positive, but that is Bobby's nature. It looks really good, but I don't know for tomorrow."

However, even if the Brazil forward fails to make his starting line-up, Klopp still wants more goals from other areas of the pitch, including dead-ball situations.

He added: "Set pieces helped us in the beginning, it disappeared a little but, hopefully, we get it back because I love scoring from set pieces."

And, while Liverpool and Everton rarely agree on anything, Klopp's opposite number Marco Silva shared the same sentiments yesterday at his pre-match press conference that it was a "special match for the city and the fans".

Recalling Origi's "lucky goal", the Portuguese manager also mocked the manner in which the Reds boss celebrated the win as if it "was the final of a World Cup".

EVERTON V LIVERPOOL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2019, with the headline ''World Cup final' for Reds'. Print Edition | Subscribe