Perfect Pep-aration stokes Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he is raring to renew his rivalry with Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola after the Reds fought back to beat Stoke City 4-1 in the Premier League on Tuesday.
The Merseysiders moved back above City into second spot, and to within six points of leader Chelsea, after earning their third straight win and maintaining their unbeaten streak at Anfield this season.
The victory, secured by goals from Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and a Giannelli Imbula own goal, prepared Liverpool perfectly for its New Year’s Eve home clash with City, whose manager Guardiola was a spectator at Anfield.
Klopp was Guardiola’s main domestic when they were in charge of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively in the Bundesliga.
“I’m not sure whether he watched a lot of games in the last few weeks in other stadiums. That is the first sign it is a special game,” Klopp said.
He joked it can be difficult to see opposition teams in action because the Premier League’s superstar managers risk spend more time signing autographs than watching matches.
“I respect them a lot also but I have not been at their stadium this season. Maybe he just wants to watch good football,” Klopp quipped.
“It’s a difficult game for both teams but exciting ... and the best thing is it’s at Anfield. They are an outstanding side and we are not too bad.”
Liverpool has won eight and drawn two of 10 matches at home this season and has not lost in front of the Kop in 23 games since January.
City faces a daunting task, but Stoke — the last visitor to win at Anfield — looked like it could spring a surprise after Jonathan Walters gave the Potters the lead in the 12th minute.
Lallana equalized and Firmino’s fine strike before halftime made it 2-1 before Liverpool ran away with the match in the second period.
Brazilian Firmino’s goal, his sixth of the season, came three days after he was arrested and charged for impaired driving in Liverpool.
However, Klopp said there had been no prospect of the 25-year-old being dropped.
“No, because he was the best man in training so there was no chance to leave him out. No chance. He was outstanding,” he said.
‘We can do better’
There were important contributions from Sadio Mane, who forced Imbula into turning into his own net, and Sturridge, who came off the bench and seconds later scored his first goal of the season.
Reds captain Jordan Henderson was also excellent, but Klopp said it was “not the moment” to shower praise on individuals.
“I don’t think they need it. In this moment they are all happy about the team performance, the result, about the goals we scored,” the manager said.
“If we speak about one player we speak always about the past, but I am already thinking about the next game and hopefully we can do better.”
Stoke boss Mark Hughes has never won at Anfield as a manager and the former Manchester United and Everton striker rued defensive errors that contributed to his team’s downfall.
“We deservedly took the lead. The disappointment is that we allowed them back into the game just before halftime.
“We went in 2-1 down feeling a little bit hard done by,” added Hughes, whose team is winless in four matches and goes to Chelsea next.
“We made a couple of individual errors again for the next two goals and it was very difficult to come back.
“Because of individual and collective errors we have been beaten by four goals, which is a little bit unfair on us.”
It’s a difficult game for both teams but exciting ... and the best thing is it’s at Anfield. They are an outstanding side and we are not too bad.” Jurgen Klopp, on the New Year’s Eve clash with Manchester City
Adam Lallana reels away in celebration after netting Liverpool’s first goal against Stoke City during their English Premier League match at Anfield on Tuesday. The Reds won 4-1 to leapfrog Manchester City into second spot in the standings.