(Reuters) – Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp said media predictions that his team will swat aside a misfiring Manchester United on Sunday could be creating a banana skin for the Premier League leaders at Old Trafford.
Liverpool top the table with eight wins from as many games while their rivals, the record 20-times league champions, have made their worst start to a campaign in 30 years to sit 12th with nine points.
The poor form of United’s players prompted Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester City defender Danny Mills to exclude them entirely from a combined 11 ahead of the clash, but Klopp rejected such talk.
“On Sky when you made a combined lineup and had 11 Liverpool players… that’s like a joke. It’s building a banana skin, that’s what everyone wants to see,” Klopp told a news conference.
“The world at the moment is a circus, we’re in the centre. A couple of people want us to win and a couple of people want us to lose… I’m not influenced by it.”
United could be without goalkeeper David de Gea, who was injured on international duty, and midfielder Paul Pogba but Klopp suggested that his counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was playing mind games when he said the duo may not play.
“I’m 100% aware of the strength of United and expect their best lineup. Four days ago Ole said there was no chance for De Gea and Pogba, today it’s a ‘maybe’ and tomorrow it’s ’100%’… that’s how these games are played,” he added.
“With the things you (media) wrote in the last few weeks — that they don’t have any influence on the game — makes them desperate to change the situation. They’ll try 100% and we’ll try to improve ours too… we’ll see who wants it more.
“We have to be emotional — as much as allowed — but also respect their strengths. This is a really good side. They are in a situation they don’t like so they want to change it. We have to ensure they start a week later.”
For all their improvement under Klopp, European champions Liverpool have not won at Old Trafford under the German, drawing three times and losing once in all competitions.
“I’ve never really struggled with confidence… history in this case isn’t really important but gives you a sign because we like to create, use the atmosphere at Anfield but Old Trafford isn’t too bad,” Klopp said.
“I’m sure they are all on their toes, ready and waiting for us. They said we are the perfect opponent now… I don’t think there are a lot of teams who would love to play against us at the moment. It looks like United are the only ones.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)