LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp is working on an improved display by Liverpool’s defenders ahead of their match with a Huddersfield team coached by his close friend David Wagner in the Premier League at Anfield on Saturday.
The two men face each other as opposing managers in a competitive game for the first time, having been friends since their days as team-mates at German club Mainz in the 1990s.
Indeed, so close is their friendship that Wagner was best man at Klopp’s wedding, but there will be no room for Klopp to be sentimental at Anfield this weekend.
His team slipped to ninth in the table after last Sunday’s 4-1 defeat by Tottenham, and their league defensive record is their worst at this stage of a season since 1964/65.
The scale of that defeat at Wembley wiped out the optimism that had built after a 7-0 Champions League win in Slovenia over Maribor five days earlier, and it proved a difficult afternoon for many of Liverpool’s players, with centre-back Dejan Lovren performing so poorly against Spurs that he was substituted after just 31 minutes.
Klopp has been left with a decision to make as to whether to leave out Lovren against Huddersfield, and either bring in Ragnar Klavan or stick with Joe Gomez, who moved across from right-back into the centre for the final hour at Wembley.
If Gomez plays at centre-back, then Trent Alexander-Arnold is likely to come in to fill the right-back.
Another question for the manager is who should play in goal on Saturday.
Simon Mignolet has been the regular keeper in the Premier League this season, with Loris Karius featuring in the Champions League.
Mignolet, though, was unimpressive against Tottenham, and Karius may yet be given a run of domestic matches to prove himself.
Liverpool have won just one of their last six Premier League matches, and are missing the influence of the injured Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane in attack.
Midfielder Gini Wijnaldum, though, has recovered from a knee injury and will be available.
– ‘Obvious mistakes’ –
“Quality is obviously a mix of potential, attitude, mentality and all that stuff and we don’t show it consistently enough, that’s the truth,” Klopp said.
“I will never give up working on that. Sometimes the most obvious mistakes are the easiest mistakes to fix, but it is obviously not the moment to say, ‘Yes, we will fix it’ –- we have to prove we will fix it.”
Wagner, who coached the reserves at Borussia Dortmund when Klopp was in charge of the first team, goes into Saturday’s match on the back of a superb 2-1 victory over Manchester United last weekend.
It was just the result Huddersfield needed after a run of six league matches without a win, and they will go above Liverpool by winning at Anfield.
Former Montpellier striker Steve Mounie came on as a substitute last Saturday for his first appearance in more than a month after recovering from a heel injury.
However, he faces a battle to get into the starting line-up after Belgium’s Laurent Depoitre, his deputy, scored against United.
“Liverpool play outstanding football with a lot of possession, pace and countless high-class chances,” said Wagner. “I can understand the criticism for their lack of points. But I don’t understand the criticism for the performances. I don’t have a clue what the folks expect.
“How they create chances, how they defend — that’s cinema at its best. You couldn’t play the game much better.”
Huddersfield midfielder Philip Billing will be out for three months after having surgery on an ankle injury suffered at Swansea on October 14.