There will be no shortage of intriguing narratives when Liverpool welcome Paris Saint-Germain tomorrow night in the Champions League.
Jurgen Klopp faces the man who replaced him at Borussia Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel, with neither manager wanting to be considered nearly men among European football’s elite.
What can you really tell from the first round of the group stages? Not all that much, perhaps, but the Reds – last season’s finalists – are seeking a statement of intent which will ring familiar in PSG quarters.
Fate has pitted the two heavyweights against one another in Group C and to put a positive spin on it, Liverpool could not have asked for a much bigger opportunity to state their credentials.
A defence that has conceded just twice so far this season will face its most alarming test yet in Neymar, Edinson Cavani, and Kylian Mbappe, the trio having scored 11 league goals already this term.
It is Neymar who has been particularly occupying Klopp’s thoughts, yet the German insists his side will not be targeting the 26-year-old with the same physical treatment he often receives in Ligue 1.
At this summer’s World Cup, the Brazilian was widely criticised for his alleged playacting – particularly against Mexico – but Klopp has defended him.
KLOPP ON NEYMAR
“I don’t follow things like that but when I saw a few games at the World Cup I know people were talking about him making more of situations,” he said, via the Guardian.
“For me they were completely normal reactions because players were going for him and he wanted to protect himself. I understand that. I thought it is smart that he saves himself.
“We won’t go for him like that. We want to play football and we want to win the ball. We will try to avoid passes to him but it is a big job to do.”
Following Neymar’s injury towards the end of last season that appeared to hamper him in Russia, PSG spared him on Friday night in their 4-0 win over Saint-Etienne.
That should mean the forward will be well-rested for the trip to Anfield and Klopp is under no illusions about the threat he poses.
“It is impossible to avoid his qualities 100%,” Klopp added.
“He is a fantastic player and at the World Cup, he was not 100% fit. Nobody asked him about that but he took responsibility to play for his country while not 100% fit. If Neymar is fit then Brazil wins it.
“I don’t think he is a person who wants to act like that because you can’t play football like he does if you are acting like that.
“He was rested at the weekend so he will be 100% fresh for us and we will see the full Neymar package.”
Spurs were supposedly Liverpool’s greatest defensive challenge so far, but the north Londoners failed to live up to the bill on Saturday; it seems unlikely the same will be said of the French champions come Wednesday morning.