Klopp faces Tottenham test on Liverpool bow
The Jurgen Klopp era at Liverpool will begin in earnest on Saturday when the crowd-pleasing German takes charge of his first Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur.
Klopp has been appointed as the successor to Brendan Rodgers on a three-year contract with the brief of reviving a team who have won only one of their last nine games inside 90 minutes in all competitions.
He might have preferred an easier venue for his first game than White Hart Lane, where Spurs crushed Manchester City 4-1 in their last home match, but he wants his players to embrace the challenge.
“Some things you can change instantly: mentality, readiness,” said Klopp, whose side are 10th in the table, a point below eight-place Tottenham.
“That is all you can change. To get really tuned as a team takes time, but I am really not interested in the problems we could have on Saturday.
“I want to see more bravery, more fun in their eyes. I want to see that they like what they do. I saw that in the week (in training) and that is good.”
If his seven-year spell at Borussia Dortmund is a reliable indicator, the rewards for impressing Klopp in the early days of his tenure could be significant.
Of the 18 players called up for his first game, a 3-2 win away to Bayer Leverkusen in August 2008, seven featured in the squad that faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League final five years later.
Saturday’s match, Liverpool’s first since the 1-1 draw at derby rivals Everton that proved to be Rodgers’s last, will be closely scrutinised for clues as to how Klopp intends to reverse the club’s fortunes.
Work-rate and aggressive pressing were the cornerstones of his approach at Dortmund, who he led to two Bundesliga titles, and he is likely to find willing adherents in grafters like James Milner.
But forward Danny Ings, another hard-running player, is expected to miss the rest of the season after reportedly succumbing to a knee ligament injury in training on Wednesday.
– Pochettino homework –
Teenage defender Joe Gomez sustained a similar injury the day before and Klopp will also be without captain Jordan Henderson and close-season signings Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino for his English baptism.
The trip to north London will offer a useful point of comparison for Klopp because Spurs, like Liverpool, seek above all to close the gap on the heavyweight quartet of Chelsea, Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs.
In that respect, Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino has had a 17-month head start on Klopp, having been appointed in May 2014.
Another advocate of aggressive, high-pressing football, Pochettino steered Spurs to a fifth-place finish last season — one place above Liverpool — and recent signs suggest that his philosophy is bearing fruit.
Since losing at Manchester United on the opening day, Spurs have gone seven league games unbeaten and the rout of City showcased the improvements that Pochettino has wrought from his young, hard-working squad.
He, too, must contend with missing players as new signing Son Heung-Min and midfielders Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb are injured, while Eric Dier is suspended.
Spurs have lost their last five league games against Liverpool, shipping 18 goals in the process, but Pochettino has been doing his homework on how Klopp is likely to approach the game.
“We can use the information because in the last few months Liverpool have played in different ways and changed the system,” Pochettino said.
“How we analyse Dortmund and the way Klopp played, it’s similar concepts that we can take.
“We have some references — maybe we give too much information — but the first half against Arsenal, they played in a similar style he played with Dortmund last season.
“We have a lot of resources to research the information. But in the end the truth is Saturday and how they put in place his ideas.”