Head-To-Head: Jurgen Klopp vs Antonio Conte

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 24 November 2017, 13:33

Just three points separate third-place Chelsea and Liverpool in fifth in the Premier League.

Both secured emphatic Premier League victories last weekend but - while the Blues stormed to a 4-0 Champions League victory over Qarabag in midweek - Jurgen Klopp’s side squandered a 3-0 lead at Sevilla to only come away with a 3-3 draw.

The two sides face each other in this weekend’s stand-out fixture, but which boss will be victorious on Saturday night?

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Klopp faces a challenge to motivate the players after such a disappointing result on Tuesday evening. The Reds displayed rampant attacking football in the first half, but the boss was very keen to stress that the fact the game was turned on its head by the home side does not indicate a weak mentality from his players.

“Could we have done better? 100%. Do I think it’s a mentality problem? 100% not,” the German Coach declared in his post-match comments.

“It was misjudgment, we wanted to play like we played the first half and control the game but then we became a little bit passive. It’s football and until the final whistle everything is possible. I knew that before.”

With a straightforward 4-0 victory in Azerbaijan, Antonio Conte is not facing the same problems as his managerial counterpart. However, he did give the battle between the two a psychological edge ahead of Saturday’s kick-off. Whether this was a case of deliberate mind-games, genuine grievance, or simply putting his excuses forward in advance, it certainly gives this hotly-contested fixture a bit of added spice.

“For sure who prepares these fixtures must pay greater attention,” said the Italian after the weekend victory over West Brom.

“Don’t forget now we have another problem because we are going to play at Qarabag on Wednesday and then we go back to London at five, six o’clock, but we have another great game against Liverpool on Saturday. Is it normal, this? I don’t think. If someone wants more balance in this league I think they must pay greater attention before to prepare the fixtures.”

Of course, he does have a point. Liverpool’s trip to Seville for a Tuesday evening fixture was much easier in terms of travel plans than having to undertake an almost 3,000 mile trip to Qarabag on Wednesday with an important Saturday fixture looming. But on balance, it seems like Klopp has much more pressing issues to deal with than travelling fatigue.

Whether their problems against Sevilla were psychological or not, the German tactician cannot rely on an easy Premier League fixture this weekend in order to blow away the cobwebs from what must have felt like defeat in Spain. And whilst the Reds have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last eight home fixtures, Tuesday night shows that the defensive issues - which have caused them to concede 17 times in 12 league encounters - still remain.

The pair have faced each other only twice in the past, Klopp unbeaten against Saturday’s opponent with one win and one draw. The fiery Italian will certainly be looking to rectify this, his obsession with winning very clear for all to see. Reports suggested that he spent a sleepless night on the flight back from Azerbaijan developing a tactical plan to overcome Klopp’s 4-3-3 system after having watched their game with Sevilla in the hotel the previous evening.

Such a level of dedication will have gone some way to negate any issues caused by the timing of that midweek Champions League tie, and Liverpool fans should hope their own boss will be ready for Conte’s meticulous planning as they line up at Anfield on Saturday.

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Phil Parkinson
Phil Parkinson
(Bolton Wanderers)
21st August