Daily Mail

Grudge match

Klopp bristles as Liverpool seek revenge after Everton horror tackles

- By DOMINIC KING Northern Football Correspond­ent

ANEW spin on the term ‘media briefing’ was provided by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool’s training ground yesterday lunchtime.

Klopp, ahead of a big game, is usually garrulous. Even during the era of Zoom — of which Liverpool’s manager was no fan — he could spend 30 minutes in front of the camera dealing with enquiries and providing long replies.

On the eve of the Merseyside derby, though, there was a significan­t change.

Having told Match of the Day on Saturday that he was no fan of this febrile fixture, Klopp was in no mood to explain why he had made such a comment. Some questions were given reasonably lengthy answers but most were given short shrift. All business was concluded within 13 minutes.

‘No, just no,’ Klopp responded when asked about the emotion of the occasion and whether an Everton team in a desperate run of form were the most dangerous opponents his side could face.

‘I cannot help you with the stories you want to write today. You write what you want.’

In that case, a reminder: this is the first time Liverpool have been back to Goodison Park since October 17 last year. That was the day Virgil van Dijk’s anterior cruciate ligament was ruptured by a flying Jordan Pickford and Thiago Alcantara’s knee was damaged by Richarliso­n’s horrible lunge.

Van Dijk has made a full recovery and will marshal Liverpool’s defence this evening, having shown in recent weeks that his form is rapidly improving. He is not the kind of player to get flustered or allow things to fester and his only focus will be on the three points.

It was not difficult to detect from Klopp’s body language, however, that the memory of it all gnaws away at him. There is no question that incident changed the course of Liverpool’s season and the first return is bound to be emotionall­y charged. ‘We are human beings, so it is probably difficult to forget and ignore something like that,’ said Klopp. ‘But the situation was a situation which can always happen in football. It was a situation which should not happen in football and I can’t remember it happening in any other game since then.

‘It is unlucky when a player gets injured like that and it should have been dealt with differentl­y, but that’s not important. Virgil is very experience­d and he has this situation constantly since he was back, where he has all these challenges and he has to be free of all these things in his mind. It might be more different as it is the same place but, apart from that, it’s just a football game.’

Not necessaril­y true. The Merseyside derby is no longer the fixture that stopped the nation, as it was during its pomp in the 1980s, but this game has so much riding on it; so many strands that are critical for the season going forward.

No team — or set of supporters — in the country will want to see Liverpool lose this more than their neighbours. Forget that Rafa Benitez’s team have taken two points from 21 and scored four goals in seven games, the frenzy that Evertonian­s will create makes this a huge challenge.

Goodison and all its hysteria is potentiall­y Liverpool’s most demanding away assignment of the campaign and with the title race resembling a tightrope walk — no room for slip-ups — Klopp’s men cannot drop points.

Across town, Benitez was more relaxed but, again, the score at 10pm could have huge ramificati­ons. A win would be a huge release of pressure, but a heavy defeat and the natives, many of whom have fraying tempers and cannot forget his Liverpool past, would erupt. Benitez does not dabble in sentiment and was to be believed when he said the sight of red jerseys meant nothing to him. But the only way to convince the doubters is with a big performanc­e. ‘I think the (Liverpool) fans know me,’ said Benitez. ‘They appreciate what I have done there and now they appreciate I’m a Blue. Our fans know how important they are for the team. We have to give them what they are expecting — 100 per cent effort. If we can play well and win, perfect.’ l CLAUDIO TAFFAREL, the Brazil goalkeepin­g legend, has joined Liverpool as one of their goalkeeper coaches. The 1994 World Cup winner joins John Achterberg and Jack Robinson. Klopp said: ‘Having Taffarel here will be good for John — and Jack — to exchange ideas and analysis. He’s another hand in an important part of the game.’

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 ?? PA ?? Feeling the heat: Benitez is under pressure
PA Feeling the heat: Benitez is under pressure
 ?? REUTERS ?? Red mist: Klopp was unusually terse
REUTERS Red mist: Klopp was unusually terse

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