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Sunday 11 December 2016

Klopp: Wenger a football maniac

Reds boss on charm offensive ahead of Anfield showdown

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has expressed his admiration for "football maniac" Arsene Wenger ahead of the Reds' clash with Arsenal.

Wenger's Gunners visit Anfield tonight as the Premier League leaders at the start of a year which marks the 20th anniversary of the Frenchman's arrival in north London.

English football's longest-serving boss was already held in high esteem by the man who will line up in the opposite dugout, but Klopp's appreciation of Wenger's work has only grown since he joined him in the division back in October.

"My respect goes up day by day because it's really intensive to work in the Premier League, especially in a team with international matches (for their players) too," the Reds manager said.

"He had always my biggest respect but now it's a little bit bigger since I'm here. That's really a brilliant job he's done - 19-and-a-half years. He's a high-quality manager, one of the best in the world for sure. This long period, it's really rare that you can do this but he did. He's a football maniac, in the best (sense of the word).

"It was always a challenge to play against him and again a challenge that I'm looking forward to."

Klopp and Wenger have become well acquainted with each other in recent years, having met in the Champions League group stages in 2011, 2013 and 2014 when the former managed Borussia Dortmund.

The Arsenal boss claimed three wins to Klopp's two after the first meeting finished all square, but the German will hope his excellent record against sides flying high in the Premier League will stand Liverpool in good stead ahead of a week that concludes with Manchester United's visit.

As well as defeating Leicester and drawing at Tottenham, the Reds' dominant away wins over Manchester City and Chelsea have proved to Klopp that his players can produce in big games.

"After 10 minutes at Chelsea it was a very, very good away game and from the first second against City," he noted.

"The main information we should take out of these two matches is we have to be really good. If we are good, then it could fit for this game of course.

Position

"But Arsenal, together with City, are the two best teams at this moment in the Premier League. To stay in a good position against Man City, they need all the points, they cannot (pick and choose) where they want to get it.

"They will show us that they have real ambitions this year. They're in a good moment.

"We can be, we're not that consistent in the performances in the last weeks but (the 1-0 win over) Stoke was a good sign of what my team is capable of."

Liverpool's injury worries have eased slightly ahead of the encounter and Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho are set to shake off problems to occupy the centre-back berths.

Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Jordon Ibe should also return but Klopp's attacking options are once again limited after Divock Origi suffered a fresh knee injury.

While Wenger will call upon his key men at Liverpool, one player who will not feature is Chile forward Alexis Sanchez - who continues to recover from a hamstring complaint.

"We should have Ozil and Mathieu Flamini available," Wenger said of his squad.

"We will have to test David Ospina who is not available on Saturday. For Alexis, the Liverpool game will come too soon for him but he has a chance to be available for Stoke and his development is going well.

"He is always keen to play. If you listen to Alexis, he can always play - even when he is injured. We try to be cautious. With a muscular injury you never exactly (know) how big the risk but he is very close."

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