Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool must be ready for a 'proper fight' against Midtjylland

Danish champions are competing in the Champions League group stages for the first time and were thrashed 4-0 by Atalanta last week; Liverpool host Midtjylland at Anfield on Tuesday in Group D game; Jurgen Klopp's side beat Ajax 1-0 in opening match

Jurgen Klopp
Image: Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool must be ready for a 'proper fight' against FC Midtjylland on Tuesday

Jurgen Klopp believes FC Midtjylland are a "proper challenger" in their Champions League group and does not expect the Danish champions to "wave the white flag" at Anfield on Tuesday.

Midtjylland were only founded 21 years ago and are competing in the group stages of the competition for the first time, having won their third Superliga title last season.

The club, from the small city of Herning, were seen as early pioneers of football's 'moneyball' movement, with an added emphasis on data-led decision-making around team selection and recruitment.

Klopp revealed he had enquired about a visit to the club during his sabbatical between leaving Borussia Dortmund and taking the reins at the Premier League champions and says he has nothing but respect for their approach.

Midtjylland began their Group D campaign with a disappointing 4-0 home defeat to Italian side Atalanta, but Klopp insists his side are expecting a "proper fight".

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool comes off due to an injury during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. 1:25
Jurgen Klopp says he has liked how his Liverpool team have adapted to the absence of defender Virgil van Dijk

"They are really good," Klopp said. "The 4-0 against Atalanta was not a 4-0 - that was the result but it didn't look like that kind of game.

"They have a clear plan. We have a clear plan as well, which is adaptable. We have to make a lot of good decisions in the game and show that we are ready for a proper fight.

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Midtjylland were thrashed 4-0 at home to Atalanta in their first ever Champions League group stage game
Image: Midtjylland were thrashed 4-0 at home to Atalanta in their first ever Champions League group stage game

Asked about the prospect of facing a 'smaller club', Klopp replied: "Ladies and gentlemen, you Danish guys need to work on your confidence. We don't see you as a small club, we see you as a proper challenger in this group.

"Nobody is part of the group because they are nice cities or whatever, they are there because they are a good football team.

Liverpool players celebrate taking the lead at Ajax through Nicolás Tagliafico's own goal
Image: Liverpool players celebrate the only goal of the game in their 1-0 win at Ajax last week

"They earned the right to be in the Champions League in the season before and Midtjylland, after an impressive comeback against Brondby, are now [joint] top of the table so it means they are good again.

"They won't wave the white flag. They will be here and give everything they can.

"There are no small teams in the Champions League. How small or big you are is shown on the pitch, not in any press conferences before."

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On the opposition's philosophy, Klopp added: "What it shows about football is a lot of things are possible if you think quicker or differently from other people. If you try things in a different way, you can make big jumps.

"In Denmark, the Copenhagen teams used to be the main teams and this team is disturbing that a little bit. They have all my respect."

Liverpool's throw-in coach not giving away secrets

There are many differences between the champions of England and the champions of Denmark, but the two clubs have shared one thing in common: their throw-in coach.

Former Danish athlete Thomas Gronnemark has worked for both sides and also previously helped out at fellow Group D opponents Ajax.

Liverpool hired Thomas Gronnemark in 2018 as a throw-in coach
Image: Liverpool hired Thomas Gronnemark in 2018 as a throw-in coach

Klopp hired Gronnemark in 2018 and it had a real impact in Liverpool's title-winning season, with the team scoring 14 of their 85 Premier League goals from throw-in situations.

Asked about Gronnemark's knowledge of Midtjylland, Klopp said: "We saw the influence of Thomas when we watched Midtjylland in the analysis but it was a pretty silent week.

"Thomas is 100 per cent professional and we don't ask him what they do and he would not give Midtjylland the answers.

"He's a super guy and helped us a lot.

"Throw-ins are a big part of our preparation but it's not the only part so we have to think about a lot of things.

"We know they will not make a lot of mistakes around throw-ins. They will have their routines, like we have a few. We just have to make sure we can use ours and deny theirs."

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