herald

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Klopp: It is like a joke. It is like building a banana skin ... it's a circus

Premier League: Man Utd v Liverpool, Sky Sports Tom (KO 4.30)

Big top: Jurgen Klopp says the hype surrounding tomorrow’s game is like a circus
Big top: Jurgen Klopp says the hype surrounding tomorrow’s game is like a circus

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has brushed aside the "circus" which currently surrounds the club while dismissing any mind games being played by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Premier League restarts after the international break with the Reds, top by eight points, heading to 12th-placed Manchester United - 15 points behind - tomorrow.

It is arguably the biggest fixture in the football calendar between England's two most successful clubs but with Liverpool having started the season so well and United so poorly, the two extremes of hyperbole have been ramped up.

"This game is so easy - not the game against United but the game around it everyone else plays," said Klopp.

"When (pundits) make a combined line-up and you have 11 players from Liverpool, it is like a joke. It is like building a banana skin.

"That's what everyone wants to see. The world at the moment is a circus with us at the centre. I am not influenced by it."

Solskjaer has a number of injuries but with key players David de Gea and Paul Pogba having seemingly been ruled out of the fixture on Thursday the under-pressure United boss changed his stance 24 hours later.

Klopp, however, is not falling for it.

"I am 100 per cent aware of the strength of Manchester United, I expect their best possible line-up," he added.

"I think Ole said 'No chance for De Gea and Pogba'. Today it is 'Maybe' and tomorrow it is '100 per cent'.

"That's how all these games are played. No problem with that but I am old enough, I am experienced enough, to judge these things in the right way.

"The less the opposing manager knows about your line-up the better it is, so that's an advantage.

"I am four years in England and it is still strange how little you know about whether a player is fit or not - in Germany we allow the press four or five times a week to watch training so you cannot hide anything."

Solskjaer also suggested the visit of Liverpool was the ideal game for his side to kick-start their floundering season.

United would take great delight in denying their arch-rivals the chance to equal Manchester City's record of 18 successive Premier League victories.

Klopp, however, took issue with that.

"They said that we are the perfect opponent - I don't think there are a lot of teams who would love to play us at the moment, it looks like Man United are the only team who does," he added.

"We have to make sure that is a misunderstanding.

"They have a really good football team there in a situation they don't like so they want to change it.

"We have to make sure if they want to change it they have to start a week later."

In comparison with Klopp, Solskjaer actually has a better record after their first 29 Premier League matches: 14 wins and seven draws compared to the German's 13 wins and eight draws.

The Norwegian remains under scrutiny but Klopp feels that is unfair.

"I have no clue about his position. It's not important what you are writing, it is more important what the board, Ed Woodward and the Glazer family are telling him. I don't have an opinion about that," he said.

"I want every manager in the world to have as much time as he can get to bring through his ideas, but you can never compare situations - our situation when I came in to their situation now.

"Man United is a massive club and nobody is ready to wait for success. In my case it was not any different.

"He has to live with that. If there was any doubt internally, it would be bad. But as long as it is only externally, that is not important really.

"I know people think sometimes the manager has to manage Real Madrid before he can take over but that is not the truth. He knows what he has to do."

Liverpool defender Joel Matip is targeting more trophies after signing a new five-year contract with the club.

Matip, whose existing deal was due to expire next summer, has established himself as first-choice centre-back alongside Virgil Van Dijk this season despite strong competition from Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren.

The 28-year-old former Cameroon international, who started in the Champions League final victory over Tottenham in June, is now under contract until 2024.

"We have a young and talented team and I think every one of us is hungry. Now we've seen how it is to win something (the Champions League) and we want to have that feeling again," Matip told liverpoolfc.com.

"There are a lot of things still to achieve. You never know how it will end, you just have to work hard and do the best you can do. Then we will see.

"It is an honour to be a part of the club. It makes me happy that people think I've done a good job and they want to keep me."

Klopp recently said he felt Matip's signing - a pre-contract deal was initially agreed in February of 2016 for him to join that summer when he became a free agent - was one of the best pieces of business done by the club. The future did not look so rosy 12 months ago with the centre-back, who is set to return tomorrow after missing the last two matches with injury, having started just three times at this stage of the campaign.

However, he got back into the team in December and never looked back and even this season, when it seemed likely Gomez would take his place in the starting line-up, he has improved again to establish himself as first choice.

"Joel's journey at Liverpool is one I love and I am absolutely delighted he has shown his commitment to us by signing this new long-term contract," said Klopp.

"As the team has evolved and become better, so too has Joel."

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