Jurgen Klopp will win domestic silverware before Mauricio Pochettino does
Jurgen Klopp will land his first trophy in English football before Mauricio Pochettino – because he is a man for the major occasion.
Big games bring the best out of top managers, and since Klopp took over at Liverpool in October 2015, he has a better record in matches against top-six rivals than anyone.
Liverpool’s crushing 4-1 defeat against Tottenham at Wembley 11 months ago was a major blip.
With Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli both missing for Spurs, Saturday lunchtime’s rematch is a huge opportunity for Klopp’s team to make another statement about their credentials as title challengers – although Heung-min Son’s return from Asian Games duty is a boost for the home side.
Look at the table of head-to-head Premier League results between the big six over the last three years.
PREMIER LEAGUE BIG SIX HEAD TO HEADS
Since Jurgen Klopp became Liverpool manager
That tells me Liverpool get fired up by Klopp when the stakes are highest, and it’s dropped points against the so-called lesser teams which will determine if they can overhaul Manchester City to be this season’s champions.
This game with Tottenham is a meeting of the club who spent nothing in the summer on new players – not a penny! – and the biggest spenders of all, after Liverpool’s £170million investment on reinforcements.
Do Klopp and Pochettino need to win a trophy this season? Sooner or later, they will need to break their duck.
Both are given pats on the back for the way their teams play, but Jose Mourinho gets pelters for Manchester United’s style of football at Old Trafford – yet he won two trophies in his first season at Old Trafford. Sometimes, in football, you are either a winner or a stylist.
Or, in Pep Guardiola’s case at City, both.
I don’t think Pochettino is under pressure yet. Tottenham will be content for him to deliver another top-four finish and christen the club’s new stadium with Champions League football.
But I think Liverpool are well-stocked for the twin challenges of a title race and Champions League campaign ahead.
As well as bringing in Xherdan Shaqiri, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Alisson, Virgil van Dijk looks like a world-class centre-back, Daniel Sturridge is fit again and Klopp has presided over the Premier League’s best defensive record in 2018.
Interestingly, Brighton striker Glenn Murray said on my BBC Radio 5 Live Premier League Breakfast Show that Van Dijk is the hardest defender he’s faced. Perhaps the Dutchman will be the biggest single influence on Liverpool winning a trophy, or even their first title in 29 years.
It will be tough to make up the 25-point gap between City and Liverpool from the end of last season.
But Klopp has already proved he can win the title when the odds are stacked against him with Borussia Dortmund, despite Bayern Munich being as powerful in German football as City are in England now.
His teams will often serve up free-flowing, free-scoring, ‘heavy metal’ football to blow teams away, though it’s the chiselling out the scrappy 1-0 wins, like the one against Brighton, which will make the difference here.
Pochettino has done a magnificent job to turn Tottenham into annual contenders but with two of his key players missing on Saturday we might be about to find out whether the quality in his squad runs deep enough.
Spurs made an excellent start, topped by that 3-0 win at Old Trafford, but six days later they went and lost at Watford.
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At what point would their fans prefer to swap high-tempo, artistic football for pragmatism and trophies in the cabinet?
It would be a fine achievement if Tottenham managed another top-four finish without investing anything to improve their squad in the last transfer window, but £170,000,000 v £0.00 may prove the difference this weekend.
Liverpool are the bigger club of the two, with more history, more trophies and a bigger global appeal. Now Klopp has a glorious opportunity to prove it — and reverse a rare stain on his record against one of the top six.
What’s your prediction for this one?
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