Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has paid tribute to Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, saying he always knew he had this kind of form in his locker.
The two sides clash on Sunday at Anfield – and their form could not be more different. City are seeking a 13th straight win in all competitions. Liverpool, though, have just two wins in eight games and have slid from Premier League title contention. Indeed, Klopp has now set his side a different target for the season.
Indeed, Liverpool are currently seven points behind leaders City in the table. That gap would extend to 10 if City beat them on Sunday – and Pep Guardiola’s side still have a game in hand.
Therefore, some believe that Sunday’s clash is a must-win game for Liverpool if they are to stand any chance of retaining their title. That’s certainly Paul Merson’s viewpoint anyway as he looked ahead to the game.
If Liverpool are to claim all three points, they’ll have to keep in-form City star Ilkay Gundogan quiet.
The German is enjoying his finest season in a City shirt since signing from Borussia Dortmund in 2016.
The midfielder has nine goals and two assists to his name in 23 games in all competitions. Indeed, his form has been vital to his side’s 13-game march in the top flight.
Klopp knows Gundogan well and says his form now reminds him of their time together at Dortmund.
Quizzed on whether he has been taken aback by Gundogan’s purple patch, Klopp told reporters: “Not at all.
“The goalscoring maybe a little bit, the rest not. Ilkay was one of the best players I ever coached.
“He was a very young player when he came to us from Nurnberg to Dortmund. Especially in the 2012 season, he was unbelievable and played pretty much like he is playing now.”
Klopp reckons but for injuries – the player’s only flaw – he could have been a more important player over the years.
Gundogan once suffered a serious back injury that kept him out a year. And soon after arriving at City, he was out for around nine months after seriously damaging knee ligaments.
However, Klopp hopes his current form and fitness are here to stay.
“Then he had, unfortunately, some injuries, really tough injuries, but that’s now all sorted,” Klopp added.
“It’s the longest period he can play soccer without getting interrupted and I wish him really well that he can continue like this.
“That’s the only reason. He was always that player. When you are smart and experience comes into play as well, then it’s another jump in your performance level, and I’m not surprised at all.”
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Klopp admits Liverpool fans are missed
With Liverpool’s form not what many expect, all the onus will be on the Reds to claim a win on Sunday.
However, while admittting having no fans roar them on is something they’ve got used to, he says the side are missing them more than ever in the wake of their current run of form.
Liverpool have also lost back-to-back home league matches, having previously gone 68 without defeat, and no goals in the last three at Anfield is their worst run since October 1984.
“I don’t know if he (Guardiola) sees it like that, we will know it,” added Klopp.
“Our situation now is not talking about supporters in or out, because we all know how much they help. We know that. We knew it always.
“For a long time (after fans were locked out) we could ignore it at least, result-wise. Now not in the last few weeks, and that is actually the exact opposite of what we want.
“So we have to make sure the atmosphere, good or bad, doesn’t make a difference.”
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