It’s always a derogatory term but ‘hipsters’ love Jurgen Klopp. The German made Borussia Dortmund everybody’s second favourite team with a stylish brand of attacking football. The energetic gegenpress of his team ticked every box football supporters love: quick movement, passing and energy. It’s impossible to use the tactic without every player responding positively and buying into it.


When things started to go wrong for Dortmund and he could no longer inspire the players, Klopp called it a day before the axe fell. In doing so, he controlled the PR spin: it was a decision taken for the good of the club but I’ll stay until they find a suitable replacement at the end of the season. Even those fans who had fallen out of love with him, admired the recognition that his time had come to an end at the Westfalenstadion.

Arriving at Anfield, the English media lapped up everything he had to offer them. Tourist snaps in the city were as much back page news as the results on the pitch. Not that he improved them noticeably. Liverpool were 10th when he took over and finished 8th in the Premier League. Refreshingly, he took the Europa League seriously, guiding his charges to the final – beating Dortmund along the way – before an inexplicable second half collapse in Basel saw them lose 1 – 3 to perennial winners, Sevilla.


There was no happy ending in this fairy tale. Not yet, anyway. This season, Liverpool have been a Jekyll and Hyde team. In the opening game at the Emirates, it was in the same match. They raced into a 4 – 1 lead having trailed early on but were pegged back to 4 – 3 and could quite easily have drawn or worse. Defeat at Burnley in the following game simply asked more questions of them.

But Klopp and Liverpool responded. A win at Stamford Bridge, a point at White Hart Lane. One defeat in sixteen games, 11 of them wins saw them move to second in the table behind Antonio Conte’s Chelsea steamroller.

The fixture list has been kind to the Reds; their early tests were grouped together and they quickly built a head of steam. From the goalless draw against Manchester United in mid-October to the Merseyside derby the week before Christmas, they didn’t face any of the top six. Their big matches came early in the season and in a cluster. The 3 – 4 defeat at Bournemouth aside, they pretty much got the expected results in that spell.

Now comes a genuine test of Klopp’s credentials. Has he made a difference at Anfield? A year is long enough to stamp his personality on the squad and Liverpool are vastly improved on last year in most areas. Like Guardiola, Klopp is struggling with his goalkeepers. Neither Mignolet nor Karius has been anything other than unconvincing when given their chance and rumours abound that the German is looking at City outcast, Joe Hart, to solve the problem.


But Klopp has his side pressing in tandem, swiftly hunting down possession in packs and it’s working against the Premier League’s lesser lights but this is a different test for him. While in charge at Dortmund, Klopp failed to win any home Bundesliga matches against Guardiola’s Bayern Munich sides. Away from home and in cup-ties, where counter-attacking tactics are effective, the German had the upper hand. At home, forced onto the front foot, the Spaniard dominated, winning 3 – 0 and 1 – 0 in Dortmund.

He did so by tactical tweaks. A more direct style than Klopp expected, negating the Dortmund midfield and taking advantage of the exposed defence. With Sergio Aguero returning from suspension, Guardiola has the firepower to cause Liverpool significant problems.

Not that he is without his own concerns. City’s defence is porous at best. Age has caught up with them and inexperience forced £49m summer signing, John Stones, to the bench.

For Klopp that represents a significant opportunity. Whether he can take it is another matter.

If the Liverpool squad has something to prove, so does the manager. The players will be aware of his results against Guardiola in the past but also that City are the only one of the ‘big six that the Reds have beaten at home since Klopp took over. Last season’s 3 – 0 win was a magnificent display but they need to win again to have a platform to build on as they face Manchester United at Old Trafford and Chelsea at home before the end of January.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27: Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool (15) celebrates with team mates as he scores their fourth goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield on December 27, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Winning a home game in the mini-league will do belief the world of good. United have won at Anfield and drew this season; Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham drew there last season. The difference between title winners and challengers is victory in these home games. They are the rare opportunity to do lasting damage to your opponent’s campaign; Liverpool have yet to feel that benefit.


For Klopp, it’s a chance to prove that substance has triumphed over hype.