Jurgen Klopp called on Liverpool to show their true fighting spirit against form side Manchester United in what promises to be one of the Premier League’s standout games of the season at Old Trafford on Sunday.
A bullish Liverpool manager confirmed that injury doubts Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip, as well as Philippe Coutinho, who returned from a lengthy layoff in midweek, all trained on Friday.
All three are in contention for starting spots for what is always a fiercely contested fixture between the old rivals.
“We have to wait for the reaction and then make a line up,” Klopp told reporters on Friday of the trio, who have played a major part in Liverpool’s rise to second place this season.
“When Phil is not playing you miss his creativity, his finishing and all that stuff. So is Hendo in another role,” he said.
None of the three started in Wednesday’s disappointing 1-0 League Cup defeat at Southampton, when Coutinho came on as substitute for his first game in seven weeks, and Klopp is expecting a much-improved performance from his side on Sunday.
“We go there for a result. No other reason. We realise before the game that we are Liverpool and we need to show this. Everyone who wants to see a real fight for (a) game, then yes, watch it. It will be 100 percent from our side.
“I don’t have to (make the players aware of the game’s importance). Attitude and motivation is very, very important. Being brave and ready for the special things is needed. There is no time to look for excuses when it is the wrong pass. These players know they need to be responsible.”
Klopp expects a different United from the tentative side, who turned up at Anfield earlier this season when Jose Mourinho set his team up negatively for the 0-0 draw they subsequently achieved.
Since then, United have been reborn and victory on Sunday would be their 10th in succession in all competitions and leave them just two points behind their old rivals.
“They are a different side (from the one that drew at Anfield). Better and more used to each other. I hear when I talk to different people that because of our last game it is ‘oh my god, it is Manchester United next’ and all that stuff. Give me 11 players and we will be competitive!”
One certain difference from their last meeting will be the presence in United’s side of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who Klopp knows well from their time together at Borussia Dortmund.
“Henrikh Mkhitaryan combines skills at the highest tempo. Good finisher, good attitude, good worker. Can play different positions and he is a world-class player, no doubt.”
Mkhitaryan scored a spectacular ‘scorpion kick’ goal against Sunderland last month, and the presence of a fit-again Matip, who has not played since injuring his ankle at the start of December, could be crucial at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
Liverpool have not lost any of the 12 games the Cameroonian has played this season, but Klopp knows every one of his team must deliver on Sunday.
“Passing needs to be quicker and earlier. If something doesn’t work you have to think about it. We know what we have to do,” he said.