After Sheffield United sacked Paul Heckingbottom and brought back Chris Wilder, the last manager who took them to the Premier League, Liverpool’s preparations for their next opponents might not fully reflect the opposition they see on Wednesday.
With just a day or two to work with the players since his return, though, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp says he isn’t too worried about what Sheffield might try to do differently with Wilder now in charge and is instead keeping his focus on his own players.
“We have to focus on ourselves,” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference. “I don’t think he will now change too much—what can he change in that short period? We don’t have to think too much about it. We really should just prepare for a football game.
“We play teams with five at the back frequently, to be honest. So we have to make sure we give them things think about. I understand it’s like this when a new manager comes in and we start getting confused. We shouldn’t. We can play in different ways.”
After finishing second in the Championship last season, a lack of investment had most pegging Sheffield to drop straight back down, and with just five points from their first 14 games—and a league worst -28 goal differential—that looks a near certainty.
Within that framework, the dismissal of Heckingbottom after he got them promoted seems harsh, but Wilder is a familiar face Sheffield fans will be hoping that a boost in morale can lead to a boost in results—starting with today’s visit from Klopp’s Reds.
“There will be a lot of passion now with Chris Wilder back in the dugout and I’m pretty sure a great reception for him,” Klopp added. “But in the end we have to play a football game, that’s it. Will it be a great atmosphere? Yes, but only as long as we let it happen.
“The only way you can calm down a great atmosphere is with your own football. So we have to play a really good game, but that’s fair, it’s the Premier League. They will be going for it, I’m 100% sure. And we will as well, I’m 100% sure. And the rest we will see.”