Most Liverpool fans, and most Chelsea fans as well, will be rather used to meetings between the two clubs that could usually best be described as acrimonious. And that goes as much for how the managers involved in the match would ten to talk about one another and the game at hand as for anything that happened on the pitch.
Brendan Rodgers came close to improving the mood between managers given his history as a youth coach at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho, but Mourinho’s presence meant any niceties were always likely to be batted back with a smirk or snarl. The early signs, though, are that Jürgen Klopp and Antonio Conte might have a downright sunny relationship.
“He is a great manager,” said Jürgen Klopp on Wednesday when asked about Chelsea’s new manager at his pre-match press conference. “Something like the Pep Guardiola of Juventus. He created a special type of play and had a very successful time there and with the Italian national team. It is quite impressive what he has done until now.”
This morning, having perhaps caught word of Klopp’s praise of him the day before, Conte responded in kind at his own pre-match press conference, turning the tables and praising Klopp. It’s not the kind of back and forth most fans of the two clubs are used to, though whether it makes any difference to the game itself is anybody’s guess.
“Jürgen Klopp is a good manager, one of the best in the world,” said Conte of his managerial counterpart and Friday opponent. “He’s shown a capacity to be a great manager. I know him but maybe not that much, as we played against each other only once and in pre-season, but he’s a fantastic manager and I’ll be glad to face him tomorrow.”
So. There you have it. Jürgen and Antonio, BFFs. At least until tomorrow night’s game kicks off at Stamford Bridge.