Jurgen Klopp isn’t the first Liverpool manager to have his future called into question ahead of a European game.
For Rafael Benitez, it became an all-too-familiar occurrence as he consistently locked horns with owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett during the latter stages of his reign.
Roy Hodgson’s tenure was regularly disputed whenever another instantly forgettable Europa League group game highlighted the Reds’ ongoing troubles.
And the spotlight shone on Brendan Rodgers’s side during his one dire Champions League campaign precipitated the beginning of the end of his time in the hotseat.
Klopp, though, found himself in a different situation on Monday when having to address speculation that, one way or another, he was walking away from Anfield.
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Such were the rumours that spread around Merseyside and beyond over the weekend, prompted by the vacuum left by Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Leicester City.
Klopp, said one WhatsApp message doing the rounds, was walking away for a short break. Another said he would never come back. A wild rumour suggested he had been sacked. And there was also a claim Alisson Becker and Andy Robertson had come to blows in the dressing room at the King Power Stadium and had to be separated.
Alarmed Liverpool fans mobilised. A banner declaring “Jurgen Klopp YNWA” was draped over the fence behind The Kop at Anfield while, one after another, fan accounts spent Valentine’s Day posting their affection for the German.
When the Reds boss stepped out for training on Monday lunchtime and then attended his press conference ahead of tonight’s Champions League round of 16 tie with RB Leipzig in Budapest, the speculation was scotched.
Nevertheless, Klopp then addressed the claims with a mixture of bemusement and defiance.
In truth, that the tittle-tattle was given any amount of credence does the Reds boss a disservice. Never before has he shown any semblance of stepping away from a fight.
Yes, taken into account was the emotional strain of the recent death of his mother and Klopp being unable to attend the funeral back in Germany.
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But just because the wider public had only this week become aware of the devastating news didn’t mean the Reds boss and his family hadn’t already been having to cope with the situation.
“I can split things and switch off,” said Klopp, when pondering how he separates his work and personal lives. “I dont carry things around.”
The baggage Liverpool are carrying right now, though, is considerable having won only three of their last 12 games to prompt the Reds boss to realistically call time on their title defence and instead refocus minds on a top-four finish.
Tonight, then, could provide a welcome distraction from domestic concerns with the Reds resuming their Champions League campaign with a round of 16 first leg against RB Leipzig.
Nominally the away leg, the match has been switched to the Puskas Arena in Budapest due to coronavirus restrictions in Germany.
If Leipzig have the form – they were beaten semi-finalists last season, are second in the Bundesliga and have won their last four games – history favours Liverpool.
They have beaten German opposition more times than any other in Europe and haven’t lost any of their last 10 legs against Bundesliga sides, the most recent being their 3-1 aggregate success over Bayern Munich at this stage on the way to winning the competition two years ago.
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While Leipzig will become Liverpool’s third new European opponent this season – after Atalanta and FC Midtjylland – it isn’t the first time Julian Nagelsmann will be in the rival dugout.
The 33-year-old was the brash boss of a Hoffenheim side sent packing 6-3 on aggregate in the Champions League final qualifying play-off in 2017.
Nagelsmann has since matured and helped Leipzig finish third in the Bundesliga last year and eliminate Manchester United from the group stages this time around.
“Julian is an extraordinary talent,” said Klopp. “He is still young, he has still proven virtually everything you can prove as a manager.
“He is talented and seems fresh but is also very experienced and serious and has a varied profile in terms of his teams and how they play.
“In the future when we are all old, he will be even better. Of course I want to beat him but I will keep an eye on his career.”