Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on facing ‘dangerous’ Rangers, Ben Davies return & the rise of Scottish football
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp reckons his side will come up against a “well coached” and “dangerous” Rangers outfit when they face off in the Champions League at Anfield on Tuesday evening.
The Premier League side and last season’s beaten finalists are currently suffering their worst start to a season in NINE years, having claimed just two wins from their opening seven domestic games.
Dropped points to the likes of Fulham, Crystal Palace, Everton, Brighton has left them floundering down in mid-table, with a disappointing defeat to Napoli in their first Group A fixture providing another early setback.
In contrast, Rangers will head into the game as massive underdogs after losing their opening two Champions League group stage matches.
Despite their winless start, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men sit just two points adrift of fierce rivals Celtic in the Scottish Premiership and warmed up for a trip down south with an emphatic 4-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
Klopp admits he has warned his struggling stars of complacency despite being strong favourites and reckons their opponents will relish the opportunity to get their first points on the board.
Speaking to the media this afternoon, the German said: “Our general situation is important but not so much tomorrow because when you prepare for a game, you prepre for a game, independent of the situation you are in.
“Rangers do extremely well in general but in the Champions League, their results have not been as they would have wanted. So we expect a team fighting for a result.
“They are a good football team, well-coached. Exceptional European season last year obviously. Qualifying for the Champions League is a big, big, big achievement obviously.
“I saw the last game against Hearts. I have seen more games but obviously the last one, and they are a really good football team. That is what we have to prepare for.
“They are a team that has had results they didn’t want and that is what they want to change definitely. So we expect a proper fight, a real fight to be honest, and that is what we prepare for.
“We need to defend consistently better. We need to attack consistently better. They will be dangerous in any situation, even without our players being low in confidence.”
Battle of two British sides adds value
English sides, generally, have fared well against Scottish clubs on the European stage, adding an extra incentive for the Glasgow side to beat Liverpool in front of their own supporters.
The Merseyside outfit haven’t faced a Scottish team in the European Cup/Champions League since Aberdeen in 1980 and Klopp reckons the Battle of Britain clash adds further value to the competition as a result.
He continued: “I heard that is it 42 years that there is no games. So yes, that is pretty special. Unfortunately, apart from that I cannot say too much about the relationship, about what that means exactly.
“Nobody gave me a historical update. I know a few things obviously and that it might be very special for sure. But apart from that it is a normal Champions League game.
“I actually think that it is very nice that we don’t play the same teams all the time. It’s refreshing, it is great for Rangers, there will be great atmosphere here.
“Definitely, people should enjoy that and I hope they will be able to enjoy that.”
Davies set for Anfield return
Gers centre-back Ben Davies will return to Anfield for the first time since being deemed surplus to requirements at the end of last season, while ex-Liverpool academy product Ryan Kent will come up against his old side.
The Reds signed £4million rated Davies amid a defensive injury crisis two years ago and Klopp admitted he was surprised that the move didn’t work out for the ex-Preston North End stalwart but has tipped him to succeed at Ibrox.
He stated: “Ben was out for seven weeks so the season is not much longer. He’s a new player coming into a new club.
“I watched the last three game so I’ve only seen him play 60 minutes. He’s a really good footballer.
“In our situation, it didn’t work out for him here but that doesn’t make him a bad player, not at all. Ben is a good boy and that’s what Rangers wanted and that’s what they got.
“They were looking for a left-sided centre half and they got it. He can play different systems, which is important, as Rangers have played one and a half games using five at the back in the Champions League.
“Usually, they don’t but he can play both formations which makes him a really valuable option for a squad so I think they’re happy, but obviously not that he had been injured.”
Scottish football on the rise
The likes of current Liverpool stars Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk and more recently Calvin Ramsay have plied their trade in the Scottish Premiership over the last decade, highlighting the top-flight in a positive manner.
Klopp acknowledged the influence Scottish football has undergone since Rangers’ return to the Premiership in 2016.
“It’s increased a lot. Rangers and Celtic are obviously the stand-out teams in the league, that’s not news, but how they do in Europe and Rangers’ run in Europe last year was exceptional.
“The Dortmund game was just really good. Especially the home game you saw how the atmosphere can give you the edge in the game so it was really impressive.
“Celtic are doing really well and the Scotland game is full of talent. We have another Scottish boy in Calvin (Ramsay) and another big talent in the under-18s (Ben Doak), so it’s a cool place to scout again.
“That’’s a good sign for Scottish football. They maybe be a bit disappointed they’re not still in Scotland as if a player is really developing, it’s not unlikely that he at least gives it a try in the Premier League.
“But it’s for sure a much better moment than four or five years ago and that’s down to the players.”