Football

Klopp relishing Pep showdown

Liverpool boss predicts a 'special' game against City on New Year's Eve

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp admitted that he has not felt the need to watch Manchester City in person ahead of their New Year's Eve clash after Pep Guardiola was spotted at Anfield yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The City boss witnessed the Reds come from behind to beat Stoke 4-1 and overtake his side to go back into second place, six points behind English Premier League leaders Chelsea.

That sets up an eagerly anticipated match between the free-scoring top-four rivals on Sunday morning (Singapore time).

Klopp admitted that it can be difficult to see opposition teams in action these days because the EPL's superstar managers risk spending more time signing autographs than actually watching games.

"I'm not sure whether he watched a lot of games in the last few weeks in other stadiums," said Klopp.

"That is the first sign it is a special game and we are already looking forward to it."

"I respect them a lot, but I have not been to City's stadium this season or last to watch games. Maybe they want to watch good football," Klopp said with a laugh when asked about Guardiola's presence.

"The best news for us is that it's at Anfield. They're an outstanding side, we are not too bad. It'll be a nice game.

"Whatever I say, we cannot win it now, but maybe I could say a few things that make it more difficult for us. It's probably best I shut my mouth!"

The German praised his side for taming a "wild" game against Stoke.

The visitors were the better side early on and went ahead through Jon Walters, but Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino scored before half-time before Giannelli Imbula's own goal and Daniel Sturridge's effort wrapped things up.

"Confidence is not a problem for the team at the moment. We know about our quality but, obviously, we don't show it all the time," said Klopp.

"The start of the game was really difficult because the plan of Stoke was to press really high, especially with the two strikers.

"We were not patient enough in our passing game, we could have done more.

"It became a wild game and, when they had the ball, it was immediately in the air.

"Peter Crouch was outstanding, he was difficult to defend against and Joe Allen was brilliant with the second balls in the beginning.

"A lot of things we could have done better, but we forced two goals with our quality. At 2-1, we could adjust at half-time, we spoke about a few things.

NO DROPPING FIRMINO

"We scored a wonderful third goal and then Daniel closed the game, that was important."

Firmino's goal - his sixth of the season - came three days after he was arrested and charged for drink driving in the centre of Liverpool.

There was talk that the Brazilian could be dropped against Stoke, but Klopp said there was no way he could have allowed that to happen.

"No, because he was the best man in training, so there was no chance to leave him out. No chance. He was outstanding," said Klopp.

There were important contributions from Sadio Mane, who forced Imbula into turning the ball into his own net, and Sturridge, who came off the bench and 56 seconds later had his first league goal of the season.

But Klopp said it was "not the moment" to shower praise on individuals.

"I don't think they need it. They are all happy about the team performance, the result, the goals we scored," he said.

"I'm already thinking about the next game and, hopefully, we can do better." - PA SPORT

eplliverpoolmanchester city