Klopp: Liverpool must improve to beat City

By Sports Desk July 31, 2019

Liverpool must find an extra gear against Manchester City in Sunday's Community Shield despite ending their pre-season slump, according to manager Jurgen Klopp.

The European champions fell behind to an early Memphis Depay penalty in Geneva, before strikes from the returning Roberto Firmino and Harry Wilson either side of a Joachim Andersen own goal secured an accomplished 3-1 win over Lyon.

The result came on the back of a 3-0 weekend loss to Napoli at Murrayfield – Liverpool's fourth winless friendly in succession.

"All round it was a much better performance, but again, I said that will happen," Klopp told his club's official website.

"Now we have three more days to prepare for the City game and then we will see what we can do there.

"I am of course happy, but I know we must play much better to have a chance against City.

"Man City is different to all other games that you play – you have to play a pre-season game against Man City to prepare for Man City and we didn't do that!

"We need to adapt to that, but all good. Today [Wednesday] was, from a physical point of view, very, very important for all the lads, and from a psychological point of view as well.

"We are all human beings and losing football games we never get used to, so I'm really happy that we could change that."

Firmino returned to club action alongside Alisson and Mohamed Salah following their international exploits over the close season.

Alisson erred to give away the fourth-minute spot kick, but his Brazil colleague and Salah offered their typical edge and quality to the Reds' attack during the first half.

"Mo is naturally fit and he can sprint all day, which us helps of course," he said.

"It opens up the pitch, you can play much more football - not always between the lines. If you from time-to-time chip the ball in behind the line, then Mo makes these offers which is very important for us.

"Bobby in between the lines and in the box [was] present [and] really important."

Klopp insists the trio will be involved against City and did not rule out handing them starts.

"I don't know yet in the moment, so that's how it is," he added. "We have to see.

"I don't say 100 per cent not, there's a chance that they will play, yes. They will be involved whenever, from the start, maybe we cannot make these [number of] changes like today [against Lyon] after half an hour or whatever, that's maybe not possible in that game, so we have to see.

"We have to see how they react tomorrow. Now training is not the highest intensity anymore, now training is about the detail [and] we really need to prepare the game."

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    Liverpool were set to emerge at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, either with the scent of triumph in their nostrils or the delicious addition of a guard of honour from Manchester City.

    The coronavirus pandemic has placed elite sport across the globe on hold, meaning the latest episode of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp's captivating rivalry must wait.

    Nevertheless, given their former employers Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were also due to meet in Der Klassiker, it feels like a good time to run the rule over two men whose tactical approaches and high levels of achievement have – and it does not feel too grandiose to suggest this – changed football in the 21st century, as well as one another.

    THE BUNDESLIGA YEARS

    Guardiola's arrival to take the reins of a treble-winning Bayern for 2013-14 came shortly after their rivalry with Klopp's Dortmund reached its peak.

    Arjen Robben's 89th-minute winner saw Bayern down BVB 2-1 in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley – a game played out against a backdrop of Dortmund's star playmaker Mario Gotze agreeing terms to move to Bavaria.

    In hindsight, Klopp's gegenpressing machine – winners of back-to-back Bundesliga crowns in 2010-11 and 2011-12 – were coming off the top of their curve, having finished 25 points behind a relentless Bayern domestically that season.

    The decline continued over the next two seasons. Dortmund were remarkably in relegation trouble halfway through 2014-15, before a post-Christmas recovery preceded Klopp's emotional farewell.

    Nevertheless, there was still time for telling blows to be landed. Guardiola's first competitive game in charge saw Bayern beaten 4-2 in the 2013 DFL-Supercup at a delirious Signal Iduna Park.

    Stung by that loss, Guardiola sprung a notable surprise in the first league encounter between the sides that November, where he broke Dortmund's rabid press by playing Javi Martinez as an attacking midfielder and repeatedly targeting the rangy Spain international with long balls.

    The high priest of tiki-taka (a label Guardiola famously loathes) had presided over "more long balls than in the last three years combined" from a Bayern team, according to Klopp, who bristled after Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller added to Gotze's inevitable second-half opener in a 3-0 win.

    A depleted Munich were similarly reactive when they won the DFB-Pokal final 2-0 in extra-time, even if flooding midfield numbers was a more recognisably Guardiola tactic.

    Diverting from his dizzying 4-3-3 of swirling triangles has remained something the Catalan tactician has frequently done across his meetings with Klopp, and not always with the success he enjoyed in Germany.

    HOLLOW VICTORIES AND THE PHONEY WAR

    Klopp ended his homeland head-to-head against Guardiola with three victories, making it back-to-back Supercup triumphs in 2014, having claimed a 3-0 Bundesliga result at Allianz Arena earlier that year – the authority of which was dimmed by the fact Bayern had already cantered to the title.

    Guardiola had four victories to his name, with one draw ultimately falling in Dortmund's favour as Bayern failed with all four of their penalty attempts in a 2015 DFB-Pokal semi-final shoot-out.

    However, Klopp was denied a glorious farewell as his team lost in the final to Wolfsburg and the fact Robert Lewandowski had followed Gotze to Munich by this point underlined a deck stacked against him.

    Liverpool came calling for Klopp in October 2015 and he helmed helter-skelter runs to the EFL Cup and Europa League finals. Manchester City and Sevilla prevailed respectively.

    That was Manuel Pellegrini's final honour as City boss as he made way for Guardiola, who collected a third successive Bundesliga title in 2015-16. Thomas Tuchel's Dortmund finished closer in terms of position and points (second, 10 behind) than Klopp's version had managed when in direct competition.

    With the stage presumably set for renewed hostilities between Guardiola and incoming Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, the similarly newly installed Antonio Conte did not read the script as Chelsea romped to 2016-17 Premier League glory.

    Klopp got the better of his head-to-heads with City as a Georginio Wijnaldum goal sealed a 1-0 New Year's Eve win at Anfield before Sergio Aguero rescued a point for the hosts in the return game.

    Guardiola laid it on thick after that 1-1 draw, declaring it to be "one of the most special days of my life".

    "He is Spanish. They are a little bit more emotional than the Germans," Klopp chuckled in response.

    TON-UP BUT NOT INVINCIBLE AND THE ROAD TO KIEV

    Liverpool beat City three times in 2017-18, when most other teams could barely lay a glove on Guardiola's record-breaking side.

    But the game where City prevailed, an unusual 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium where Liverpool subsided meekly after Sadio Mane's red card for clattering Ederson with a high boot, arguably had the biggest influence on the campaign.

    When that game was 11 v 11, Guardiola's back three was horribly exposed. Aguero's opener arrived against the run of play, with an unusually wasteful Mohamed Salah having tormented Nicolas Otamendi.

    City never used 3-5-2 in the league again that season, reverting to a swashbuckling 4-3-3 that churned out 19 consecutive wins and made the second half of the schedule a virtual procession.

    Liverpool halted their designs on invincibility however, claiming a raucous 4-3 Anfield win in January. Klopp hailed "pressing from another planet" by his front three as Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah were all on target in a euphoric nine-minute spell after half-time.

    Guardiola had again seen a swift avalanche of goals bring the roof in during a big match and his tweak to a 4-4-2 diamond, eyeing avenues around those Liverpool pressing lanes, backfired in that season's Champions League quarter-final.

    A 3-0 first-leg loss at Anfield, with all the goals arriving during the first half, left City with a mountain to climb and a death-or-glory approach in the return fixture – deploying a formation probably best described as 3-CHARGE!!! – eventually ran out of steam in a 2-1 loss.

    But it was Liverpool who came up short in the Kiev final on Loris Karius' nightmare outing against Real Madrid, while City sauntered to a 100-point haul as dominant Premier League champions. Sitting 25 points back in fourth, the Reds had a considerable gap to bridge.

    CHASING PERFECTION

    Despite that deficit, their efforts in going blow-for-blow with City over 90-minute periods left the impression Liverpool were the best placed of the pretenders to overthrow the champions.

    Both teams reconvened on Merseyside undefeated in October 2018 and remained that way as the free-flowing nature of recent meetings gave way to a cagey 0-0 draw.

    Reprising the theme of those early Klassiker meetings, Guardiola took his foot off the throttle as City played at a controlled tempo – an approach that would have ended the club's Anfield hoodoo but for Riyad Mahrez's ballooned late penalty.

    Fire and brimstone returned the following January, though, with a wobbling City recovering their poise and avoiding a 10-point deficit at the top. Aguero and Leroy Sane were on target either side of Firmino in a bravura display, where Aymeric Laporte took on the unfamiliar role of left-back to stifle Salah.

    That was Liverpool's only loss of the season as they finished on 97 points, agonisingly one shy of City. However, their subsequent Champions League final win over Tottenham improbably propelled them further along.

    Just as Guardiola has tempered some of his more cavalier tendencies when faced with Klopp, the challenge of an unrelenting City also forced the Liverpool boss into subtle and decisive tweaks.

    In bringing in Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, he spent big for what many see as the finest goalkeeper and centre-back on the planet. Their very presence means risk can be reduced.

    Heavy metal football has given way to a steady pulsing beat that never wavers. In the city of Merseybeat, Klopp has gone electro.

    Amid their steamrollering of the opposition this season, Liverpool have 19 wins by a solitary goal in all competitions. They are frighteningly and ruthlessly clinical. A profligate City trail in their wake, although Guardiola has used this relative freedom from pressure to thumb intriguingly through his tactical playbook in 2020.

    Both men have inspired the other to reach beyond their comfort zones and the result is the two best teams in world football. With Klopp contracted to Liverpool until 2024 and Guardiola talking up an extended stay, the thought occurs that they are each other's motivation for sticking around. There is nowhere better to measure their greatness than against one another.

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    Werner, 24, was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool from RB Leipzig, but the coronavirus pandemic may have changed that.

    Meanwhile, Dybala's future is set to be clear shortly.

     

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    Star midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and defender Dejan Lovren are among the Liverpool players out of contract in 2021.

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    ROUND-UP

    - Luka Modric is going nowhere. AS claims the midfielder will see out his contract, which runs until 2021, at Real Madrid. Just what Madrid's midfield looks like next season remains to be seen. Sport says Madrid will let James Rodriguez leave and bring Martin Odegaard back from his loan spell at Real Sociedad. It also reports Takefusa Kubo will be used as part of a deal to bring back Odegaard.

    - Talk about a deal that would see Neymar return to Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann join Paris Saint-Germain remains alive. According to Sport, PSG would welcome Griezmann while they attempt to re-sign Kylian Mbappe to unite the France team-mates at club level.

    - One player unlikely to be at PSG is Edinson Cavani. Tuttosport reports Napoli are thinking about bringing the forward, who is out of contract at the end of the season, back to the Stadio San Paolo.

    - Marc-Andre ter Stegen's future remains unclear. Sport claims Barcelona and the goalkeeper are no closer to renewing a contract that will expire in 2022.

    - Henrikh Mkhitaryan is seemingly happy on loan at Roma, but whether he stays remains to be seen. The Daily Express says Arsenal have rejected two bids – the last one around €11.4million (£10m) – from the Serie A club, who may instead turn to Chelsea's Pedro.

    - As they plan a move for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Chelsea have told Willian he has no chance of getting a three-year deal, according to the Mirror. Willian is out of contract at the end of the season.

  • De Bruyne alongside Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar as world's best – Del Piero De Bruyne alongside Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar as world's best – Del Piero

    Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne belongs among the world's best alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, according to Alessandro Del Piero.

    Messi and Ronaldo are widely regarded as the world's two best players, ahead of Paris Saint-Germain stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

    But Del Piero, a Juventus great, feels De Bruyne should be considered among the best.

    "To define the strongest player, you should specify in what," he told Sky Sport on Thursday.

    "In addition to the sacred names such as Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar that attract the audience at 360 degrees, there are players of incredible depth, like De Bruyne."

    De Bruyne had scored nine goals and provided 18 assists in 35 games in all competitions before this season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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