Premier League • England

No hesitation, as Klopp names Inter star he’s ‘really looking forward’ to meeting; wowed by second star

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool manager during a Champions League press conference

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said that he is looking forward to a reunion with Inter star Ivan Perisic, following the pair’s time at Borussia Dortmund.

The Reds and their Serie A opponents clash at the San Siro on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie. Liverpool have the better record heading into the knockout stages after winning all six group games.

Inter, meanwhile, progressed behind Real Madrid in Group D.

The sides last met in the last 16 back in the 20007/08 season. Liverpool prevailed on that occasion with a 3-0 aggregate scoreline.

But while the two teams have changed since then – both winning the European Cup again for instance – there are familiar faces in Inter’s current team, such as former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko and ex-Manchester United and Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez.

For Klopp, though, Croatian forward Perisic is the man he is most looking forward to meeting. The manager signed the 33-year-old for Borussia Dortmund in 2013 and spent two successful years.

Asked if there is a particular player he can highlight from Inter’s squad, Klopp – without hesitation – told his pre-match press conference: “Yes that’s Ivan Perisic, I worked together with him.

“We were very successful, we won the double in Germany so I’m really looking forward to meeting Ivan.

Liverpool face season-defining run of games before international break

Liverpool face season-defining run of games before international break

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp faces a season-defining run of fixtures before the international break at the end of March.

“After, we met when he played for Wolfsburg. We [Dortmund] lost a cup final in Germany [in 2015]. But since then, probably not anymore. I like Ivan Perisic a lot.”

Perisic initially made his name as a winger for Croatia and Inter, who he joined after leaving Wolfsburg.

He also played out wide for Bayern Munich, where he spent the 2019/20 season on loan. Indeed, he won the Champions League that campaign.

However, he now plays as a wing-back or on the left of midfield in current Inter boss Simeone Inzaghi’s system.

One Inter player who will not feature against Liverpool, though, is midfielder Nicolo Barella.

The 23-year-old Italy international received a two-match ban from UEFA after receiving a red card against Real Madrid in Inter’s final group game.

Klopp impressed by Barella

Nicolo Barella competing with Denis Zakaria

“That Barella is not able to play is not bad for us! He’s a really good player,” Klopp said of the 35-cap international.

“He has all the things you want from a midfielder – he’s aggressive, he’s good technically, he can run for ages.

“That’s a top-class player, but Arturo Vidal as his replacement is experience at its best. He played everywhere on a top level and I think in these games Arturo is especially motivated.

“I’m not so sure it’s an advantage for us that he will play instead of Barella, but that’s not so important. It’s much more important how we play – what kind of mood can you create, what kind of mentality can you produce, what kind of football can you show?

“It depends on the players of course, but it also depends on the team.”

Rafael Benitez, who has managed both Inter and Liverpool, has insisted that possession will be vital as he offered his predictions on the tie.