Jurgen Klopp won his first game in charge at both Mainz and Borussia Dortmund – but can he repeat the feat at Liverpool?
In some ways, it’s a shame we have to find out.
Everything about Klopp so far has been brilliant. He’s ridden into Liverpool, swished his cape, flashed those startling set of gnashers, headed out into town to mix with the locals and, quite simply, charmed the pants off everyone.
He can do no wrong.
Klopp is where it’s at right now while, by contrast, Jose Mourinho looks tired and irritable. You’re old hat Jose. We’ve heard it all before.
If Klopp and Mourinho were placed in opposite corners of a locked room and the doors were let open, the fawning press pack would all scamper towards the German rather than the Portuguese.
But now we get down to the little matter of a game of football. And a tough one at that.
Spurs are the only side not to have suffered a Premier League defeat since the opening weekend of the season (Won 3, Drawn 4) so deserve respect. The bookies certainly see it that way, making Tottenham 11/8 favourites, Liverpool 19/10 and the draw 12/5.
And if Reds fans are looking for a quick and favourable comparison with the departed Brendan Rodgers, this is definitely the wrong game.
The matches against Spurs produced some of the high watermarks in the Rodgers regime – the 5-0 away and 4-0 at home in the title-that-never-was season and also the 3-0 win at White Hart Lane last August – Liverpool’s best away performance of the campaign. Even debutant Mario Balotelli played well in that game while, in the return, he scored his only Premier League goal at Anfield to secure a 3-2 win.
Add it all up and Rodgers’ last five games against Spurs produced five wins out of five with 18 goals scored. Follow that Jurgen!
Of course, we will probably know precious little after one game. Who would have thought that Liverpool would be within touching distance of the title just one season after Rodgers had opened his reign with a dispiriting 3-0 loss at West Brom?
Klopp’s starting line-up
Like most Liverpool fans, I’ve spent the last week speculating on potential starting XIs and working out which players will fit where.
If it’s a Dortmund-style 4-2-3-1 and given who’s fit, how about Mignolet in goal, Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho and Moreno the back four, Can and Lucas as the ‘2’, Milner, Coutinho and Lallana as the ‘3’ and Sturridge up front.
Then again, what about Ings? He should fit into Klopp’s style. And what does he do when both Benteke and Sturridge are fit at the same time (if that ever happens?). I’d pick Sturridge all day long but Benteke can’t just be a £32.5m super-sub.
I’ve also been absorbing every Klopp fact going and can now say ‘gegenpressing’ in a reasonably proficient cod-German accent. I even know the title of the first ‘adult’ movie he watched. Naturally, in the spirit of detailed research. I found it. Some grainy Austrian thing. Rubbish (note to self: delete history file).
Earlier this week, I watched ‘I Believe In Miracles’ – the superb documentary about Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest team who, for a brief time, knocked Liverpool off their perch and won back-to-back European Cups in 1979-1980.
It’s a great story, wonderfully told, and it’s easy, if probably incorrect, to make the obvious link. For Clough read Klopp and, yes, Liverpool fans want to believe in miracles.
One other key point of that story is the role of Clough’s sidekick Peter Taylor, so don’t underestimate the not very sexy story this week of Zelko Buvac being granted a work permit.
Buvac – known as ‘The Brain’ due to his tactical knowledge – is Klopp’s trusty assistant manager so his arrival at Melwood on Wednesday after it looked as if he’d be delayed by paperwork could just make a few per cent of difference for this Spurs game.
So do we Liverpool fans follow heart or head for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off?
It’s quite simple; heart says ‘win’, head says ‘draw’. On this occasion I shall go with the latter and envisage an energetic encounter with the two sides playing out a 1-1.
But, and here’s the obvious first contrast, instead of Liverpool taking the lead and conceding (something they kept doing in those recent glut of draws at the end of the Rodgers era), I’ll go with the reverse.
Trying to adopt Klopp’s new tactics might leave Liverpool vulnerable early on but with the German rallying his team at half-time they’ll hit back and level it up in the second half.
I’m writing this on Thursday. Five minutes before kick-off on Saturday, my heart will be telling my head to ‘do one’. Yep, 3-1 Liverpool. Let the dreaming begin.