Jurgen Klopp has discussed the prospect of his “special” first Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton on Wednesday.
Klopp was appointed Liverpool manager in October of last year, but has never managed against the Toffees, with previous incumbent Brendan Rodgers’ last game as boss coming in the first Merseyside derby of the season.
The Reds face Everton on Wednesday, looking to continue a successful April in which they have gone unbeaten, reached the Europa League semi-finals, and closed to within five points of fifth-placed Manchester United.
Previewing the clash with the Liverpool Echo, Klopp discussed his excitement at the fixture.
“I am really happy about this,” Klopp said. “In our really busy schedule it’s nice for me to have a game where I don’t have to think about finding the right words.
“This morning when we were in the dressing room and we spoke a little about Sunday’s game at Bournemouth I don’t think anyone was really listening!
“They are thinking about Everton. I’m okay with that. That’s really cool. It’s very exciting. It’s important too.
“Derbies are always difficult to play because you have to handle the pressure. There’s no advantage or disadvantage for either side.
“For me, I like these special games. I’ve been a manager since 2001. That’s 15 years and each game is important. But with special games like this it’s different from three or four days before it.
“The biggest change is that there used to be more local players playing in the fixture. They knew naturally from the first minute of their lives about the importance of the derby. But now the public view is so big in this moment – that’s where the pressure comes from. All my players know about the derby because they hear so much about it. They know the importance of this game.
Klopp then discussed his experience as a manager in derbies in Germany. His first club Mainz had no real rival, says the 48-year-old, but his time at Dortmund heralded clashes with bitter enemies Schalke.
“Firstly at Mainz, when we went up, nobody really thought of us as being in a derby because we had no real history,” the manager said. “We were close to (Eintracht) Frankfurt for example but they thought ‘nice to meet you, but next year you’ll be in the second league again’. With Dortmund it was pretty different.
“It’s outstanding. In my first season there in 2008, on our fourth matchday we played against Schalke. Our first three games were against Leverkusen, Bayern and Cottbus but nobody spoke about those games.
“Leverkusen, really difficult, good side, we could have lost 6-0 and nobody would have been interested.
“With no success at the club, the only game in the year everyone was really interested in was the derby. In Dortmund they say the derby is more important than the championship. You can feel it around the game.
“Since I’ve been here I get the feeling that the rivalry was more aggressive between Dortmund and Schalke. For example, you wouldn’t work for Dortmund if you were a Schalke fan. No chance.
“If you say ‘okay, I’m good at this and this, can I work here?’ They’d say: ‘what club?’ You say Schalke they say: ‘thank-you, now go’.
“Dortmund to Schalke is 25km. In Dortmund itself, there aren’t many Schalke fans but if you go 10km out there are a lot. As Dortmund manager, I lived in a street and my two neighbours were Schalke fans. They showed it every day, flying flags!
“If we lost to them the next day I’d see them and they’d be shouting: ‘Morning!’ When we won, they didn’t say hello.
“Here I feel it’s a little bit different. All the Evertonians I’ve met until now have been pretty friendly.
“I’ve met some Evertonians in the street and they’ve been friendly. I’ve had taxi drivers who have been Everton fans. They’ve been really nice.
“At the beginning I thought ‘okay, maybe they’re happy I’m here because they think that means Liverpool won’t have any success for the next 20 years!'”