Mourinho and Klopp: Opposites, but much in common
Mourinho and Klopp may be plotting each other's downfall but the two have much in common
CHELSEA v LIVERPOOL
(Tonight, 8.45pm, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Never have two managers been so different and yet had so much in common.
Juergen Klopp is finding his way. Jose Mourinho has lost the plot.
Liverpool's trip to Chelsea tonight isn't the Normal One meeting the Special One.
That's too neat a comparison, too convenient a sound-bite.
They are polar opposites, chalk and cheese, stuck at the far ends of the coaching spectrum.
Klopp advocates Gegenpressing (counter-pressing). Mourinho believes in only winning, at any cost. Any casualties along the way are collateral damage.
The German adheres closely to managerial cliches without ever lapsing into one.
From Mainz to Borussia Dortmund and now Liverpool, there is no "I" in his teams. He serves the fraternity. He's a brotherly lover, not a fighter.
But the Portuguese pragmatist is the "I" in every team. His three favoured performers are me, myself and I. His sides are always built around the individual: him. They rise and fall with his mental state.
He's happy to play the Big Bad Wolf. Klopp believes in bear hugs.
But now, in the middle age of management, they must prove themselves all over again.
Mourinho, the most successful Chelsea manager in the club's history, is allegedly one game from the sack, despite the fact that there are few available candidates ready, willing and able to replace him.
Klopp, the man who made a little go a long way at both Mainz and Dortmund, has supposedly taken a bridge too far.
Bear hugs are not enough to bring back the good times at Anfield, just as the Big Bad Wolf routine has lost its bite at the Bridge.
Two battle-hardened veterans of domestic and Champions League campaigns are suddenly wearing "L" plates and taking their test again for dispassionate examiners at Stamford Bridge tonight.
If the Reds fail to put down a cornered, wounded animal, and exact revenge for that Gerrard slip in 2014, then Klopp faces more questions than a jittery O-Level exam student.
If the Blues fail to rouse themselves from their protracted, post-title-winning stupor, then Roman Abramovich may be compelled to play the mad axeman once more in a bid to end Chelsea's worst Premier League start in 17 years.
At this juncture, with Mourinho turning 53 in January and Klopp just four years his junior, the magnitude of tonight's occasion is lost on no one. Their careers are at the crossroads and they are gambling on the tried and tested to proceed.
Mourinho's gamble is the trickier of the two. He's risking not only his job, but also his reputation; i.e. in the pursuit of victory, he's making himself deeply unlikeable.
The trouble with a cult of personality is just that, its success depends entirely on the mood swings of the individual.
The line between charisma and cruel, for example, is making a light joke about a physio's eagerness rather than sacking her.
The distance between insanity and genius isn't always measured by success, but by dignity and credibility.
In the past, John Terry, all cropped hair and wild eyes, fist pumped the club badge and ran through centre forwards for his revered leader.
Now he sheepishly stands back, waiting for another unsavoury outburst from an empty shell in a sharp manager's suit.
When Terry occupies the moral high ground, there is a real problem for Mourinho. With each demeaning rant, the falling idol slips closer to parody.
To a lesser extent, that's also an issue for Klopp.
When he ran up and down the touchline last weekend, arms aloft in jubilant celebration, it was a wonder he wasn't tapped on the shoulder and gently reminded that it wasn't April 2013, the stage wasn't Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion and Robert Lewandowski wasn't eviscerating Mourinho's Real Madrid with four goals.It was a goal in a dire contest against Southampton. The Saints soon equalised and a subdued Klopp tried to conduct his post-interview while wiping the egg from his face.
The arm around the shoulder and the megawatt grin makes Klopp a player's coach, one of the boys, like a bilingual Harry Redknapp with a better dress sense.
There's a feeling that he's after something similar at Liverpool, with Roberto Firmino and Alberto Moreno brought in from the cold with a warm embrace.
Klopp's undefeated streak now stretches to four games and the honeymoon may last longer, but only if defeat is avoided at Stamford Bridge.
He knows his stylish entrance must give way to a tactical structure dipped in substance. An arm across the shoulder counts for less than a stranglehold on the game.
Klopp needs to win. So does Mourinho. They took different paths to get here, but the final destination remains the same.
They both need a green light at the Bridge.
Defeat will stall Klopp's momentum, but a loss for Mourinho could lead to the great juggernaut being scrapped for good.
For Juergen, I am not a close friend because football doesn’t allow that but he is a guy I like a lot. We have a good relation and as a manager his work speaks and in spite of the last season, I consider him one of the top managers.
— Jose Mourinho on Juergen Klopp
I’m full of respect for his work. He is emotional. I am emotional. But we are professional enough to know after the final whistle normal life starts again. Everything is okay between us, no problem.
— Juergen Klopp on Jose Mourinho
BY THE NUMBERS
1 Chelsea have won just one of their last seven games in all competitions.
1 Liverpool have won one of their last 10 Premier League away games (D5, L4). Their last away victory was at Stoke in their opening match of the season.
3 Liverpool have drawn their last three league matches - the last time they had four straight draws was between December 2007 and January 2008.
6 Jose Mourinho has tasted defeat in six of his last 12 league matches, after losing just six of the previous 64.
19 The 19 Premier League goals conceded by Chelsea are only bettered by Norwich (21), Bournemouth and Newcastle (both 22).
- Crystal Palace v Man United
- Man City v Norwich
- Newcastle v Stoke
- Swansea v Arsenal
- Watford v West Ham
- West Brom v Leicester
- Everton v Sunderland
- Southampton v Bournemouth
- Tottenham v Aston Villa