The Sun (Malaysia)
Special One to survive lightweight test
> Although Klopp will have been buoyed by his first victory, he will know that a cornered Chelsea is a dangerous opponent
IT’S THE Special One vs the Normal One. A beleaguered manager vs a beatified new broom. A crumbling empire vs one attempting to strike back.
Chelsea vs Liverpool is a culture clash of giants that has never been in need of hype. But tomorrow’s early kickoff is getting so much you wonder if it’s being promoted by Don King.
What the American impresario might have called “The Siege at the Briedge” is all about the two most charismatic bosses in football; watching them run through their repertoire of histrionics, hugs, sulks, admonishments and rages could be worth the admission money alone.
The build-up has many convinced that it’s Custer’s Last Stand for Jose Mourinho.
“Jose faces Klopp chop” was one headline while others felt the decision to axe him had already been made.
And all that was before the defeat on penalties at Stoke and Liverpool had secured a first win for their new manager over Bournemouth upped the ante for the Portuguese.
For the ghouls among us, the antics in the technical boxes might be more compelling than the game itself.
But sifting through the hysteria, one can’t help but feel there’s virtually no team Mourinho would rather be facing this weekend than his old nemesis from Merseyside.
If you were choosing a side to deliver a knockout blow, Liverpool would surely be the last one you’d pick.
They may run you off your feet for an hour but like the boxer with all the moves but no punch, they find it hard to score.
Although unbeaten since Jurgen Klopp took over, their lack of strikers has reached the critical stage with Christian Benteke returning to the casualty list.
With Belgian beanpole Divock Origi not looking up to it and Daniel Sturridge the new Sicknote, Klopp has to rely on his midfielders for goals and they have not delivered.
Fullback Nat Clyne bagged the winner against Bournemouth and the German could be forgiven for looking wistfully into the stands at the likes of Robbie Fowler and Ian Rush.
Reports that Chelsea are already preparing for life after Jose may be exaggerated although, if true, the club is probably just being prudent.
The field of successors is not even a handful and no matter how angry Roman Abramovich feels about his manager’s meltdown, he will be wary of repeating the mistake of his previous premature dismissal.
As in 2007, the main grouse against him is his behaviour not the way the team is playing. Even against Stoke there was scant evidence of a mutiny, the team played reasonably well, competed and were unlucky to lose on penalties.
And even if the manager has yet to grow up, the owner has surely mellowed from the gung-ho, triggerhappy 30-something of his early days.
The chequered history of seven managers since the fateful day Mourinho dared his boss to sack him suggests Abramovich may have won more had he stood by his incorrigible incumbent.
Some of his sackings worked but with only four serious contenders now – Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink and Diego Simeone – he will not be in a rush.
There is a Champions League game next week at home to Dynamo Kiev and defeat would leave Chelsea in peril of going out at the group stage. Going into it managerless is surely not an option.
Also, as players have been quick to point out, they are certainly not having the rub of the green; indeed, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.
The key will be to find out how much of the dressing room the manager has lost and Abramovich does talk to the players. He will find out and make his judgment.
What Mourinho needs above all is to calm down and after another game with Stoke, there is an international break which may afford him a brief sabbatical.
With the League Cup gone and the League title virtually gone, the priority now is to make the top four for next season’s Champions League.
It’s a tall order but with his first choice replacement unable to come mid-season, he may stick with Mourinho for now – hoping that the suspensions he’s receiving may help douse his anger by removing him from the fray.
Although Klopp and the whole club will have been buoyed by that first victory and the promise of youngsters, he will know that a cornered Chelsea is a dangerous opponent. How he will wish for the side that blitzed Mourinho’s Real Madrid with four goals from Robert Lewandowski in the 2013 Champions League semifinal!
All he will have is a makeshift outfit that will have its hands full containing a Chelsea side playing – we think –for their manager’s future.
But Klopp will also know this. It’s a mouthwatering prospect. And there might be some football too.