The international break isn’t welcomed by many Premier League fans, let alone this most recent one.
The anticipation has this week been building ahead of the return of the Premier League and the meeting of old rivals Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield.
While the game is being built up as a must win for both sides, nothing will be decided on Monday evening (bar the bragging rights). This showdown will be a huge turning point, should they win, for Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool squad more so than Jose Mourinho and his newly-inherited Manchester United side.
With wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and champions Leicester City so far this campaign, adding Manchester United to that list will do wonders for the confidence of Klopp’s exciting new squad.
The German has sparked life into the Premier League and he is adored by the Anfield faithful and by most other fans too including even some Manchester United and Everton supporters, if they could only admit it.
His energetic, passionate performances on the touchline week in, week out, regardless of who his team are playing or what competition his side are in, compared to the approach Louis van Gaal took at Manchester United last season, is a sight to behold.
Liverpool have the distinct advantage of not being involved in Europe this season. They face United on Monday, West Brom on Saturday and then Tottenham in the EFL Cup the following Tuesday, all at home. Most weeks they will just play at the weekends leaving the weekdays to recover from the high intensity they play at, while also having time to work on improving on the training pitch.
Manchester United, on the other hand, face Europa League duty at home to Fenerbahce just three days after the meeting with Liverpool. Then three days after that Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge for a meeting with Chelsea and three days after that they face Manchester City at home in the EFL cup.
While this is just part of life as a top flight footballer it does take its toll on squads, with Liverpool and Chelsea holding the clear advantage over teams involved in Europe as well as domestic competitions.
Liverpool went to Stamford Bridge recently and showed just how far they have come under Klopp illustrating why they, and not Chelsea, hold a more defined advantage over their rivals.
If Liverpool can pull off their first Premier League title win, Klopp will no doubt have a statue of himself unveiled outside Anfield. For a club the size of Liverpool, to have not won their domestic league in almost 27 years is staggering.
The Reds finally have the man in place that can bring success at long last to the club. However, Klopp is a coach in high demand. Despite signing two contracts in his one year at the club, the fact remains that Klopp is destined to manage at the very top, with one of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus or even Bayern Munich.
Klopp, being the ambitious manager he is, will want to test himself at the very highest level, which is why Liverpool must build on their current form and win the title as soon as possible because should the 49-year-old leave Liverpool will be in transition once again.
The Merseysiders’ next opponents, Manchester United, are currently in transition themselves but Jose Mourinho, a success no matter where he has been, will eventually get it right at Old Trafford. Chelsea too are finding their feet under Antonio Conte and, like Mourinho, he too will need time.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, like Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, are currently in flying form but added distractions of other competitions will soon see them hit a slump. Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City have already peaked and are still pinching themselves whenever the Champions League music rings out around the King Power Stadium.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are a mixed bag in that you never know what they could produce. With Arsene Wenger looking likely to be on his way next summer, that distraction could prove to see him finish his amazing two decades at the Emirates empty handed.
This all points to Klopp and to the Liverpool side that he can now call ‘his team’. While the season has started fantastically for the German, if he can add Mourinho to the list of rival managers who have failed to get the better of him so far this term then there is every reason to believe domestic success is not far off for the club.
However, despite committing his long-term future to the club in July, gone are the days of Sir Alex Ferguson and Wenger spending decades at the helm.
Klopp is unlikely to see out the six-year contract he’s signed at the club. Should he fail to deliver a title in the next three seasons the pressure will be on and another candidate for the job may have arisen.
Should he do well and achieve the goals he set out he will be in demand and the temptation to test himself again will be there.
Liverpool fans will be hoping it will be the latter and they can edge closer to Manchester United’s haul of 20 titles, and not before time.
Damien McEvoy Pundit Arena
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