Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has expressed his admiration for Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri and stressed that the Blues are strong contenders for the Premier League title.
Chelsea — in Sarri’s first season at Stamford Bridge — have 16 points out of a possible 18 in the Premier League so far, two fewer than leaders Liverpool.
The two clubs meet in London on Saturday but on Wednesday they clash in the third round of the League Cup.
At his pre-match press conference on Tuesday, Klopp said when asked about Sarri: “It is the biggest change of system I ever saw in such a short period of time. Wow. Style completely (different). What a manager he is, to be honest.
“I’m pretty much a supporter of him since I saw them playing at Naples (Sarri’s Napoli team). That’s outstanding football, and now (he is) doing it in a very interrupted pre-season, without a lot of players involved — Eden (Hazard), (Olivier) Giroud — and starting the season, and you see immediately the impact.”
Klopp said Chelsea are realistic title contenders and is surprised they are not being tipped more widely.
“This team is experienced,” said the Liverpool boss. “They won the title already — I’m not sure, but 80 per cent of them probably twice, and they know how it works. So that’s a really good group, a really strong football team.”
Klopp confirmed goalkeeper Simon Mignolet will make his first appearance of the season in Wednesday’s cup tie as Alisson Becker rests.
Dejan Lovren, having recovered from injury, could join Mignolet in getting a first run out of the season while Virgil van Dijk is being monitored after coming off in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Southampton due to a rib issue.
Klopp said he will name a strong side for Wednesday’s match, in a competition often considered the lowest priority for sides involved in Champions League football.
“It’s not about the other three competitions tomorrow night, it’s exactly one we have to play in, not four, and that’s how we will take it, with all concentration, all focus, all intensity, normal game,” he said.