Merseyside derby will be my toughest yet, says Liverpool's Klopp
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp is expecting his toughest test yet in a Merseyside derby when his side face local rivals Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.
The German has not lost a game to Everton since taking over at Liverpool in 2015, but believes their current boss Marco Silva has recruited well to assemble the strongest Everton squad since Klopp was appointed.
The arrivals of Brazilian winger Richarlison, Colombia international centre back Yerry Mina and French left back Lucas Digne have increased the quality at Everton's disposal and Liverpool's rivals are sixth in the table ahead of the game.
"The games have always been difficult but Everton are a different team now with a different style," Klopp told a news conference on Friday.
"It may not be too nice for all the other (Everton) managers but (Silva) has the best squad. That's how it is. They brought in players he wanted."
Liverpool, who are second in the table, two points behind leaders Manchester City, go into the match after a dispiriting 2-1 away defeat by Paris St Germain in the Champions League and Klopp called for a reaction against their local rivals.
"A reaction is always important -- we have to play better than we did in Paris," he said. "You can't always carry the last game into the next game.
"We didn't need a defeat in Paris to get us motivated for Everton. It's a special game... we need to work, we need to improve -- it's always like this."
Liverpool have had a mixed bag of a season so far, with a series of impressive performances in England offset by three dispiriting away results in Europe.
A strong defensive improvement, which has seen Klopp's men concede five goals in 13 league matches so far, has been tempered by a dampening down of the thrilling attacking play that was a hallmark of his team last season.
Much of the recent criticism of Liverpool has centred around a perceived lack of creativity in midfield, but Klopp bristled when asked if he was concerned by how his team were performing in the middle of the park.
"We have conceded five (Premier League) goals and (you say) our midfield is being overrun?" he said in response to a question. "I don't see that. Yes, we could have scored more goals, but I don't see any problems in midfield."
Skipper Jordan Henderson is suspended for the match and Klopp was asked if he was confident his team would be able to cope with the febrile derby atmosphere in the absence of their captain.
"He is not available, so what should I do? Ask the FA?" the German replied. "I really do not understand a lot of your questions today. Yes, my players are ready but they have to prove it on Sunday."
City will look to maintain high standard over festive period, says Guardiola
Manchester City will not relent in their attacking zeal despite the glut of fixtures to come over the festive period, manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday before the weekend's Premier League clash against Bournemouth.
City, who won the title last season by breaking records in terms of goals scored and points accrued, are once again flying high, leading the table on 35 points after 13 games without tasting defeat.
It was in the midst of the busy December fixtures last year, however, that Guardiola's side saw their record 18-game winning run come to a halt in a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace.
With a plethora of games to come starting with Saturday's visit of Eddie Howe's Bournemouth, Guardiola maintained that his side will not change their approach to mitigate the short recovery time.
"When we are not able to win the games, people will say we cannot keep the standard but we have been at the same level for the last 15 months so I don’t have any reason to think we will not be who we are," the Spanish coach told a news conference.
"That doesn't mean win or lose but the way we approach the games, I don't see any signals to see we are not going to try and be who we are."
On Bournemouth, Guardiola commented: "They are so fast up front with (Calum) Wilson, (Ryan) Fraser, (Junior) Stanislas, (David) Brooks. Very well organised. It will be a tough, tough game."
City will at least be boosted by the news that forward Gabriel Jesus is close to recovery, with Guardiola adding that he wants the Brazilian to play a lot of minutes in the coming weeks.
However, the manager was more downbeat about reports that 19-year-old Brahim Diaz could be the latest talented youngster to leave the Etihad - possibly following in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho, who is now impressing at Borussia Dortmund since moving there last year.
Spanish media outlets said that Real Madrid could be a possible destination and Guardiola urged the youngster to make a decision.
"We want him (Brahim), we want to extend his contract four or five years and do absolutely everything for him to stay," he said. "But it's in his hands. My advice is if he doesn't want to stay, he has to leave. So it's simple... he has to decide."
The Manchester outfit lead the standings by two points ahead of Liverpool, who are also unbeaten in the league so far.