(Reuters) – Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp enjoyed the first win of his Premier League career at a stumbling Chelsea last October but expects a much tougher challenge when his side return to Stamford Bridge on Friday.
Liverpool have been buoyed by the 4-1 thrashing of Premier League champions Leicester City last weekend but Chelsea now have Italian Antonio Conte in charge and have made a strong start after last year’s slump.
“I’m very excited, games against Chelsea are always special things in the Premier League,” said the German, whose team won 3-1 in west London last year with Philippe Coutinho scoring twice.
“They’re a strong side and in a good moment. They’re competitive, physically strong (and have) learned from the experience of last year.
“Last season was not a Chelsea season, obviously, and now they are back on track and that’s how it is and so we need to be ready for a real challenge.”
Former Juventus and Italy coach Conte, dubbed the ‘Pep Guardiola of Turin’ by Klopp, joined Chelsea after Euro 2016 and has led the former champions to three wins in four league games this season putting them second in the table.
The Italian, like Klopp, has become renowned for his goal celebrations and in his case also volcanic eruptions even at near-misses.
“I don’t know Antonio well enough to say why, but he looks quite emotional when they don’t score,” said Klopp, who last weekend urged his own supporters to stop chanting his name until the game was over.
The German was confident Liverpool, who are three points behind Chelsea in sixth place, could surprise Conte’s side but said there would be plenty of mutual respect.
“We have a challenge and we want to go there and create real problems for them,” he told a news conference. “I feel good when I think about it. That doesn’t mean anything, unfortunately, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Liverpool’s Croatia defender Dejan Lovren will return to the squad after missing the Leicester game with a bruised eye but midfielder Emre Can is still returning to fitness after an ankle injury sustained in August.
“Emre is not injured any more, which is good, but now he needs to train, so that’s how it is,” said Klopp.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)