Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp laughs off rivals Man City’s lack of a No 9 as a ‘luxury problem’… and says Premier League champions would be EASIER to play if they had a recognised striker
- City pursued Harry Kane in the summer but England captain stayed at Spurs
- Guardiola’s team has already had 14 different goalscorers so far this season
- Klopp says City’s lack of a recognised striker isn’t a problem but an advantage
- It would be easier if it was simply a case of only having to ‘mark a No 9,’ he said
- Liverpool host Premier League champions City at Anfield on Sunday afternoon
Not only are Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola outstanding managers, they express themselves more colourfully in a second language than many do in their native tongue.
For Klopp, the fuss about Manchester City not having a recognised striker is a ‘luxury problem’ given the champions have already posted 14 goalscorers this season.
Guardiola, when asked to describe Liverpool, summed up: ‘Typical Jurgen team, from the school of Red Bull’, though other high-energy drinks are available.
Jurgen Klopp has dismissed the suggestion Manchester City lack a proper No 9 in their ranks
After the bitterness of Fergie-Wenger and Benitez-Mourinho, it feels odd that the greatest rivalry of this era is founded on respect, though no less competitive for it.
Sunday’s combatants at Anfield have shared the last three Premier League titles and the smart money is on one of them doing it again with Liverpool the only remaining unbeaten team and City having outclassed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last weekend.
The Achilles heel for Guardiola is meant to be his lack of a natural finisher to replace the departed Sergio Aguero.
At a time of lethal global No9s – Lewandowski, Lukaku, Ronaldo, Kane and Haaland – City are doing it a different way, as Klopp has also done with wide man Mo Salah outscoring anyone else at Liverpool.
City have already had 14 different goalscorers so far this season and still have a cutting edge
Phil Foden (left) and Gabriel Jesus are among the forwards Pep Guardiola can choose from
Though City have failed to score against Leicester, Spurs, Southampton and PSG this season, Klopp almost snorts in derision when it’s suggested Guardiola’s team may lack a cutting edge.
‘They played like that last year and then Ilkay Gundogan arrived 500 times in the box and scored from close range. It would be easier if it was simply a case of only having to mark a number nine,’ Klopp said.
‘City always have enough options in that decisive area around the penalty box. Which number the player has on his back is not important.
‘Their wingers are influential like ours. I don’t know how many goals City have scored from close range with a square ball in the six-yard box.
Champions City had put down a marker with a statement win at Stamford Bridge last week
‘Teams try to have enough defenders but in the end they pass and seem to have a player free at the far post.
‘That’s not because the opponents are dumb. It is because City do it really well. They pass the ball at the right moment, the positioning is close to perfect.
‘I know they haven’t scored hundreds of goals this season and the whole world is talking about they need a No 9. Imagine if they had a No 9 on top of that! It’s a luxury problem, let me say it like this.’
Guardiola believes Klopp has made him a better manager and has helped his teams improve
Guardiola produced a tactical masterclass at Chelsea with Phil Foden pushed forward as a false nine.
Jack Grealish, Gabriel Jesus, Ferran Torres, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling carry their own threats even if last season’s unlikely goal hero Gundogan is injured.
The Spanish manager seems to have moved on from Harry Kane and wants his current crop to be more like foxes in the box. ‘What is the Plan B, buy two strikers for £250million?’ he shrugs.
Klopp believes City don’t need the Spurs talisman up front due to their attacking riches
‘No, we have to play better, get more people arriving in the box. There is no secret in football, the biggest strikers in the world scored goals because they are in front of goal.
‘Once we are there, we need the quality to put in the back of the net but it is impossible to score if you are not close. It is a Q of mathematics.
‘That is what we have to do – make the process, try to finish in front of the goal.
‘Even the top strikers have moments when they don’t score. We are in a high level the way we play but we can still play better.’
Mo Salah has hit the ground running this season and has already scored eight goals so far
Despite having won everything in the game, this showdown at Anfield still gets Guardiola’s blood pumping.
‘For a manager, the feelings have to be there for these types of games; excitement, nervousness, pressure, emotion.
‘If you don’t have that feeling before important games, this is not the business for you.
‘Maybe you don’t sleep well the night before, or after if the performance was not good. This is why you live this life. You don’t go into the match like going to a restaurant with your friends.’
Liverpool are the only side still unbeaten in the Premier League after six games
Liverpool were quiet in the transfer window compared to their rivals but have still outperformed all of them so far.
Unbeaten in the league and top of their Champions League group having scored eight goals against AC Milan and Porto, Klopp appears relaxed.
His talisman Mo Salah has scored eight goals in games and there is more warmth between him and Sadio Mane than witnessed for years. Whoever gets the nod between Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino, it doesn’t weaken the side.
Salah’s (right) relationship with Sadio Mane appears to have improved markedly this year
At 29, Salah sprinted back from one penalty area to another to stop a Porto counter in midweek.
‘I can’t praise Mo without mentioning what Sadio is also doing defending the second post on a lot of occasions but yes, when I see Mo chasing back and winning the ball, it’s a great sign he feels really good,’ said Klopp.
‘It’s not that he thinks “Oh my God, why do I have to run here?” – it’s like “Okay, no problem.”’
The two superpowers look evenly-matched from their respective Brazilian goalkeepers Alisson and Ederson, and leaders in the centre of defence, Virgil van Dijk and Ruben Dias.
City won 4-1 at Anfield in February, the first win away at Liverpool in 18 years.
Liverpool’s major absentee Trent Alexander-Arnold means the job of trying to contain Grealish will fall to either James Milner or Joe Gomez.
Dias is the reigning Footballer of the Year, van Dijk has been a Ballon d’or contender. It appears defenders are finally getting proper recognition.
‘It’s not enough to only win challenges, you have to organise a whole defence, you have to be fast, good on the ball, strong, technical. Centre halves today are a different animal,’ admits Klopp.
City have extra insurance in front of their back four with Rodri whose absence in the Champions League final cost his team against Chelsea.
It’ll be a long time before Guardiola leaves him out of a big game again.
The City boss says: ‘A player like him, still young at 25, has the hunger and willingness to listen and say: “I can do better’.
‘The last games he’s played, he’s been magnificent, in terms of presence but with the ball as well.
‘We need him because Liverpool create a lot of gaps with their movement in behind. They play with high intensity in all senses, they are a typical Jurgen team, from the school of Red Bull. Yeah, fantastic team.’
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article