Tomorrow’s league match against Everton may be his first Merseyside derby, but manager Jürgen Klopp already knows that getting the players ready to face off against Liverpool’s local rivals won’t be an issue. If anything, in fact, his job will be to help them stay calm.
"Before I went to Dortmund there were a lot of red cards in their derbies," began Klopp when asked at his pre-match press conference today about derby pressure and the difficulties of getting his team ready to face Everton at Anfield tomorrow evening. "Maybe 20 fans want to see you do those things but it will never help.
"To handle emotions and the pressure, that’s one of the big challenges in football. We played Man United—I don’t know if Everton is the biggest game or United is—but we handled that really well. That’s what I expect from this game, too. That everybody sees from the first second that we want to win, but with football."
In the past, keeping their cool has been an occasional issue for players on both sides in the derby. While the fans are typically friendly away from the pitch, when it comes to matchday there can be a lot of emotion, and every now and then that emotion has boiled over on the pitch and led to reckless challenges and red cards.
Most often, it has been the side that can best rise to the occasion without going too far that has the advantage, and that’s what Klopp will be looking for from his Liverpool side. He will also be focused on making sure they aren’t already looking ahead to next week’s mid-week match away to Villarreal in the Europa League.
Though fourth remains seemingly out of reach and the Europa League is the most likely route back into the Champions League, a win tomorrow could see them close within two points of fifth-place United with a game in hand over their other English rivals, and that, says Klopp, will be the only thing on his players’ minds.
"We should only be thinking about tomorrow," added the manager. "Nobody will be thinking about the Europa League. We could be fifth in the league, and that’s very important. It’s a big difference between finishing seventh or sixth or fifth, and we need to do everything we can to get the best position we can."