Jürgen Klopp versus Rafa Benítez. Liverpool against Newcastle. St James’ Park will host a reunion on Sunday as Rafa faces his former club once more. Six years, legendary finals, and trophies ensured that Rafa wrote his name in the club’s history. Ahead of the game, Klopp praised the man who will surely have a tactical plan in an attempt to best the visitors.
Klopp understands the importance of respecting predecessors that have contributed to the history of a club and are still warmly regarded by the fans. As always, Klopp’s observations are engaging and entertaining. Moreover, Klopp knows that Rafa will be the focus on Sunday and will continue to show the respect he did when the two faced off in Klopp’s first season as Liverpool manager.
"I met Rafa once when he was manager of Liverpool - we beat him 5-0 with Mainz, hopefully he remembers that!" Klopp said ahead of Liverpool taking on Rafa’s Newcastle on Sunday. "The rest is history, the big success. We met meanwhile for sure 10 or 15 times in different occasions and it was always really nice, to be honest.
"He’s a very, very interesting person, so we always had a good time. I know he’s still connected, not only because he lives around here still, he’s really connected to the club still, wishes the club all the best and all that stuff - it’s how it should be after this fantastic time that he had here.
"Even in pre-season and the summer break, we had talks. I know him better than most of the other colleagues in the Premier League, to be honest, and it’s nice but it has not the biggest impact, I think, on the game."
It is good to know that the pair get on well, but Rafa will want to take all three points against his former club. Newcastle have started the season quite well despite the lack of investment from Mike Ashley to support a manager who got Newcastle promoted, as Championship champions no less, at the first time of asking. Newcastle sit in ninth after three wins and three losses from six games.
For Liverpool, though, a win would be a fine way to start October and head into the second international break of the season. Defensive issues and poor finishing have soured Liverpool’s start to the season. Against Spartak Moscow on Tuesday, Liverpool missed a staggering amount of chances to only draw 1-1 with a team that was mostly second best throughout the contest. However, it is only a matter of time before Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Daniel Sturridge make the right decisions and take their chances.
The aim is to ensure that Rafa has a miserable Sunday afternoon before sincerely wishing him and his team well for the months ahead. There certainly will be no friendship between two fiercely competitive managers during the game, but the respect between two will shine throughout as both sets of supporters will bellow their admiration for a classy individual.