After being welcomed as a savior at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp will begin attempting to deliver on those lofty expectations when he takes charge of Liverpool for the first time at Tottenham on Saturday. Following the dismissal of Brendan Rodgers, Klopp was quickly identified as the prime target by both the club’s ownership and fans. A two-time Bundesliga winner and Champions League finalist at Borussia Dortmund, the charismatic Klopp has already brought a huge level of excitement to the red half of Merseyside, as well as anticipation that he can be the man to lead the 18-time English champions back to the top.
He may have dubbed himself “the normal one,” but the coach with a penchant for “heavy metal” football, has created a buzz not seen in the Premier League since “the special one” Jose Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea 11 years ago. His quotability and enthusiasm, coupled with a reputation for producing a thrilling high-tempo playing style has meant that from some opinions of Klopp have almost been in danger of wandering into mythology.
But, following the international break, reality will begin in earnest this weekend. Klopp takes over a Liverpool team that has won just once in their last nine matches in all competitions, and sit 10th in the Premier League. Meanwhile, club captain Jordan Henderson is on the injury list and the team’s two big summer signings, Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, are major fitness doubts to take the field at White Hart Lane.
And Klopp will have had little time to introduce his preferred philosophy to his new squad by the time Saturday’s match rolls around. Wednesday saw Klopp take his third training session since being appointed, but the first with those players who were away on international duty. It was also the first time that Klopp’s long-time assistant, Zeljko Buvac, was by his side, having had his arrival in England delayed by work permit issues.
Still, there is unquestionably plenty to justify the optimism around Anfield. And it would be hard to make the argument that Liverpool’s prospects of finishing this season with Champions League qualification have not been enhanced by events since a 1-1 draw with Everton last time out. Not only has Klopp achieved great success at both Mainz and Dortmund, but his qualities would appear to be a perfect fit for a club that is fueled so much by raw passion.
And Klopp’s infectious presence means he could well get an immediate response from his players on Saturday, even if they are still adapting to the more precise requirements of his strategy,
“There is a lot of information and as players we need to listen a lot now, and learn and try to put everything he asks us to do onto the pitch and off the pitch as well,” midfielder Lucas Leiva told Liverpool’s official website. “It has been very good, very positive and hopefully it will keep going like that.
“He seems to be very passionate -- he likes to put in everything that he has and he asks the players for the same. Be very intense, be aggressive with yourself, is what he has been saying. Always try to be better, always give 10 meters more, because that will be the key to success. That is what he has been saying to us in the last couple of days.”
It is Tottenham that are tasked with ensuring there is no dream start for Klopp. Their recent form should at least ensure Mauricio Pochettino’s team go into the fixture with confidence. Spurs may sit just a point above Liverpool in the table, but they have not lost in the Premier League since a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on the opening day. In their lost home game they produced one of the finest performances and results seen at White Hart Lane in some time when beating table-toppers Manchester City 4-1.
The return from injury of Christian Eriksen, who scored twice in a 2-2 draw with Swansea in Tottenham’s last outing, has been one of the major catalysts for a recent upturn in the team’s scoring threat. Yet another of those responsible, new signing Son Heung-min, is set to miss out against Liverpool through injury. Meanwhile, Eric Dier, who has impressed in a defensive midfield role this season, will be suspended.
Prediction: This is a fixture that has produced plenty of goals in recent times, and, in particular, some big wins for Liverpool. The Merseysiders have won the last five meetings between the sides, including 3-0 and 5-0 on their last two visits to White Hart Lane. But Tottenham have more resilience than that now, although the loss of Dier may well make them less defensively solid. With Liverpool likely to be energized by Klopp’s arrival, there could again be goals, but this time they may be shared.
Predicted score: Tottenham 2-2 Liverpool