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Lampard vs Klopp is shaping up to be the Premier League’s first managerial duel for over a decade

September 15, 2020

JURGEN Klopp probably shouldn’t expect any mail from Stamford Bridge this Christmas time. The Liverpool manager has charmed English football with his Cheshire Cat grin and passion on the touchline, but Frank Lampard, it seems, is not among the German’s biggest fans. In fact, it was that passion that saw the two managers come to verbal blows at Anfield towards the end of last season.

The animosity has carried over to the new campaign, with Klopp aiming a dig at Chelsea over their summer spending. “We live in a world at the moment with a lot of uncertainty,” the Reds boss said. “For some clubs it seems to be less important how uncertain the future is – owned by countries, owned by oligarchs, that’s the truth.”

If Klopp was angling for a reaction, he got one, with Lampard highlighting the money spent by Liverpool in recent years. “You can go through the Liverpool players – [Virgil] van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho, [Naby] Keïta, [Sadio] Mane, [Mohamed] Salah,” said the Blues boss. “Incredible players that came at a very high price. Liverpool have done it over a period of time.”

It’s been a while since there’s been this level of antagonism between two managers at the top of the Premier League. The individual duel between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger defined a whole era of the English game, with Jose Mourinho only adding to the level of friction between three headstrong figures not afraid to speak their mind.

Many expected Pep Guardiola and Mourinho to pick up their rivalry from Spain when they ended up in Manchester at the same time, but the two managers largely kept out of each other’s way. Even as Liverpool and Manchester City have gone toe-to-toe for the title over the last two seasons, Guardiola and Klopp have stayed respectful. There has been no mind games, no press conference mind games and certainly no touchline fisticuffs.

On the face of things, there isn’t much respect between Klopp and Lampard, particularly in the case of the latter towards the former. This weekend’s clash between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge will reveal just how deep the animosity runs and whether this could become the Premier League’s first genuine managerial duel for a number of years.

That’s not all this Sunday’s match will reveal. Liverpool got their title defence off to a winning start, but Leeds United exposed Klopp’s side to the extent that the Reds already have questions to answer. The likes of Andy Robertson and Virgil Van Dijk will need to lift their performance levels otherwise Chelsea will cause real damage.

For Lampard’s men, this weekend’s game presents an early yardstick to gauge where they are in their development. Can Chelsea challenge for the Premier League title this season? After Sunday, there will be a lot more evidence to base an answer to that question on. A victory and a positive performance would lay down a marker and provide the Blues with real momentum.

Monday night’s win over Brighton offered Lampard with some encouragement. While the display was far from perfect, there was enough in the performance of new signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, as well as Reece James, to suggest Chelsea are on to something. Even when they were below their best, the Blues found a way to win. Good teams do that.

Liverpool certainly did it a number of times last season. Chelsea can learn a lot from what Klopp and his players have done well these past few years. In so many ways, the Reds have set the precedent for what Lampard is now expected to achieve at Stamford Bridge. Klopp probably shouldn’t expect any polite requests for advice, though.