Jürgen Klopp relishing importance of Liverpool's clash with Manchester United

Jürgen Klopp relishing importance of Liverpool's clash with Manchester United

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp insists he only needs 11 players for his team to be competitive against Manchester United this Sunday and vowed that they are capable of bouncing back from recent disappointments.

Charlie Malam

Jürgen Klopp is relishing the importance of Liverpool's high-stakes Premier League meeting with bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday afternoon.

The two teams are only separated by five points - having at one point been 10 ahead - and with the contrasting momentum between the two sides, this game feels as though it carries season-changing potential.

Liverpool have drawn twice and lost once to kickstart the new year and are in need of a shot in the arm as they look to prove they are in the title race for the long haul.

Meanwhile, United have won nine successive games in all competitions - including six straight wins in the league - and have narrowed the gap to the top-four in the process.

Jose Mourinho's side could close the gap to a mere two points to Liverpool in claiming maximum points at Old Trafford this weekend, leaving the Reds at risk of dropping out of the top-four altogether, but their manager insists it is an exciting challenge.

I know how this squad react to poor performances, vows Klopp

Klopp speaking in his pre-match press conference said that he looks forward to the game "a lot" and said: "When I woke up this morning, I really thought about why I was [feeling] in good shape and then I realised 'Oh yes, only two days [until United]!' It's good, all good."

He acknowledged the stature of the game, insisting he can "hear it" in the questions of journalists and when he has "spoken to other people" - adding: "Because of our last game, it's a little bit [like] 'Oh my God, and now Manchester United..' and all that stuff, but give me 11 players and we will be competitive."

The Reds boss declared that taking the game to United is the "plan" and said that they are "not just some players" and he knows "how they react to not-that-good performances."

"That doesn't make us weaker, it should make us stronger than the last game for this game and be ready for it," Klopp said, stating that the game won't be about "being confident before" but "about getting confidence in the game" with "the right movements, the right kind of defending and the right kind of causing them problems."

He declared that is what Liverpool "think about", insisting the last game - a 1-0 defeat to Southampton in the first-leg of their EFL Cup semi-final tie - is "not important" but that they should "welcome" and "use" any "last percentage of greed to fix something" after it.

'My players know their responsibilities'

While he noted the importance of the game, Klopp says that - in the context of Liverpool's season - it doesn't represent the be-all and end-all.

He added that they "cannot ignore" how important the game is, but said that "another truth" is that "the season doesn't end after it." 

"If you want - United, Everton, these games are always important either way. You can be 10th and they can be first, or they are 15th and we are first, and [it] makes no difference for the game."

The Reds boss said that Liverpool "know about" how "very important" this fixture is, citing that it "would be nice" if they could "win there."

But regardless of the result, Klopp feels his side's "next challenge is then already clear" and added: "We have a lot of games to play and a lot of points which you just get, and these are only three of those if you only see it in general."

He said that he doesn't "see it in general" because he recognises it as more of "a real challenge" because of what he called "the soft issues" but again said it is "a special game" and Liverpool "are aware of it."

Klopp also acknowledged the historical meaning of the fixture and vowed that his players will be fully prepared to do battle.

He said he doesn't need to remind his players of the game's significance because they "are long in the country" and "know more about the fixture", saying most of his players are "really experienced enough to know about it."

He acknowledged it is "very, very big" but said that Liverpool, in every game they play, must show that "attitude is very important, motivation is very, very important" and "being brave, being clear, really ready for the special things" too.

Klopp said that there is "no time for looking for excuses" and that the players "always have to be ready again in the next second" even "when you miss a pass or whatever", adding that they "know about their responsibility" even "long before the meeting."

Game won't be decided by how much me or Mourinho wants to win, says Klopp

The German was asked about coming up against United boss Mourinho, whom he called a "top-level" manager, but said that he and his players "cannot be surprised about this."

He said that Liverpool "have this kind of angriness" and competitive edge in them and continued to say that they "go there for a result."

Recalling his only other trip to Old Trafford, a 1-1 draw in the second-leg of their UEFA Europa League last 16 clash last season, Klopp insisted that it was "a good atmosphere" and "an intensive game."

"We were ready for it and we will be ready again," he vowed. "You need to have in each game this little bit of luck in decisive situations, but that's for both of us. I don't think that Jose or myself, how much we want to win, can make the difference."

He added that "both meetings" will show that "all the things we had to do [is] on the pitch" and that "the players have to perform", which he feels is "how it always is" rather than being down to the quality of the managers involved.

Klopp also noted that the small details are likely to make the difference, when asked more about the previous meeting between these two teams earlier this season.

Liverpool and United played out a bore goalless draw on Merseyside as the visitors sat back in numbers and restricted Klopp and co. to few chances.

He said that he felt United went to Anfield to win and "could have" though he said his side "were the better side" and "were dominant" even though United "started really high intense and aggressive in all the pressing situations."

He said that "one of the biggest chances" that night was a Zlatan Ibrahimovic header in a situation which he believes they must "avoid" repeating.

Klopp said: "It's a different game and it's not that we expect them to play like this again or whatever. The detail will probably make the difference and the readiness for defence. That's very, very important."

He warned his Liverpool side that they "cannot go to Manchester and try to play a little bit of football and then look what happens" and said that they will "line-up for this" and "be really ready for the challenge", as well as trying "everything to make the difference on the good side."