Jurgen Klopp is the kind of football manager who is full of quotes. If he was seeking outside help to lift Liverpool following defeat to Napoli on Tuesday, the following Rocky quote would have been fitting.
“It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.”
Liverpool weren’t hit particularly hard in Naples. A 1-0 defeat to Carlo Ancelotti’s side was not the worst thing in the world. After all, they are tied on 3 points with Paris Saint Germain and with every chance of getting out of the group of death. The loss will have hit hard, though.
The Reds travelled to Italy full of confidence and believing the hype surrounding them. Klopp has built a squad that is capable of competing in the Premier League and Champions League. He has also made the players believe they are capable of both.
Their performance against Napoli suggested that is not the case. This was the worst performance they have put in in some time. The defence was slack, the midfield was disjointed and the forward line toothless. Even the energy, which is a pre-requisite for any Klopp side, was lacking. There were few if any, positives to be taken.
The same can be said of their two previous games. A 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge may have proven to be a feast for the fans but it was not a good performance from Klopp and his men. Only a wondrous strike from Daniel Sturridge sealed a point and continued their unbeaten start in the league.
Earlier in the same week, it had been a demoralising exit from the Carabao Cup to the same team. That game at Anfield was sealed by Eden Hazard’s brilliance but it was again a mixed evening for the Reds. Klopp will not be too concerned about exiting a competition that is at the bottom of his list of priorities but he will know the manner of the defeat will have had some effect on his players.
The draw at Chelsea and defeat to Napoli will have only drained them further. These are all games they believe they should be winning. They are games they need to win if they are to go far domestically and in Europe.
Indeed, the reaction from large sections of the fanbase suggests they know this as well. As Brendan Rodgers claimed, it is boom or bust at Liverpool, there is no in-between. These past three games have felt like bust. The naysayers have had plenty to say as a result.
It is now up to Liverpool to answer them versus Manchester City this weekend. As the Italian Stallion claims it is all about how you bounce back and keep moving forward. The visit of Pep Guardiola and his team provides this Liverpool team with the opportunity to prove they can do just that.
Beating City would quell the doubts that have been raised in the past week or so. It would reaffirm the belief that Liverpool are the main challengers to City’s dominance this season. It would also help to banish the memories of that dreadful trip to Naples.
Fortunately, City are a team he likes to face. Their open expansive style plays right into his hands, as was proven on several occasions last season. Their desire to be on the front foot and play at 100mph is also conducive to Liverpool’s style. Klopp teams prefer when a game is frenetic and often struggle when it is not. The meeting at Anfield on Sunday will be how they like it.
A game against Manchester City should be a nightmare, especially for a side that has just suffered a demoralising defeat in Europe. Not Liverpool, though. In their case, it comes at a perfect time. After a disappointing week their squad, fans and even season need a little shot in the arm.
This game presents them with the chance to get one. Klopp will know this and demand that by the end of Sunday that the bust of the past week becomes a boom once again. As Rocky says, it is the ability to bounce back that makes real champions.
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