Liverpool's journey to Everton this evening represents the latest chapter in the long-standing cordial rivalry between their current managers.
Since first crossing paths as the coaches of Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid respectively, Jürgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti have become familiar dugout foes in recent years.
Firstly, in consecutive Champions League double-headers between Liverpool and Napoli, and now as the custodians of the teams located either side of Stanley Park.
Tonight’s 236th Merseyside derby will be the second pitting Klopp against Ancelotti – and ahead of kick-off, we’ve taken a look back at their shared history so far…
Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund v Ancelotti’s Real Madrid
After losing to perennial rivals Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley, Klopp steered his Borussia Dortmund side through to the quarter-finals of the following season’s competition, where they were reunited with the club they had stunned 4-3 on aggregate in the semis en route to the previous showpiece – Real Madrid.
The Spanish giants had made some big changes in the interim, though. Chiefly, replacing Jose Mourinho with Ancelotti, and it was the new coach’s men who took a commanding lead in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, goals from Gareth Bale – in his first season with Los Blancos – Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo putting them 3-0 up at the halfway point of the tie. It was a huge step towards the fabled La Decima, Real’s long-awaited 10th European Cup victory, which Ancelotti duly delivered after beating Bayern in the semis and neighbours Atletico Madrid in the final.
First of all, however, there was a fierce examination to undergo in front of the Yellow Wall at Signal Iduna Park, where a Marco Reus double gave Klopp’s charges the consolation of a 2-0 win in the second leg.
Klopp’s Liverpool v Ancelotti’s Napoli
It was more than four years before Klopp and Ancelotti again crossed swords, and even though this particular clash was in the group stages, the circumstances were not dissimilar; one would progress all the way to the Champions League final and lift the trophy, the other would be left behind.
Drawn alongside Paris Saint-Germain and Red Star Belgrade in a veritable ‘group of death’, Klopp’s Liverpool called in on Ancelotti’s Napoli at Stadio San Paolo on matchday two and there suffered one of only seven defeats in all competitions last season. Lorenzo Insigne delivered the decisive blow in the last of 90 attritional minutes, sliding in to knock Jose Callejon’s cross into Alisson Becker’s net.
Come the return fixture on matchday six, revenge wasn’t just desirable for Liverpool, it was essential, anything less than victory meaning elimination from the tournament, whereas the visitors could progress with a draw.
Fortunately, the Anfield crowd were treated to one of those quintessential supercharged performances that have been sprinkled throughout the Klopp era, the Reds creating boundless chances – though taking only one, through Mohamed Salah – and allowing the visitors only one – an Arkadiusz Milik effort miraculously clawed away by Alisson in stoppage time.
Liverpool went through as group runners-up behind PSG, Napoli dropped down into the Europa League, and just nine months later the whisk of some balls in a bowl in Nyon dictated that it was time to do it all again.
“Napoli again!” smiled Klopp at the prospect of a second successive Champions League group-stage joust. “When they went out last year, it was pretty close; Ali made a big save in the last seconds, so they will remember that and it will be emotional, I am pretty sure.”
Back at Stadio San Paolo, the light blues inflicted the first defeat of what had been a flawless Liverpool season up until that point, prevailing 2-0 after a tense match-up where the outcome seemed precariously balanced on a seesaw until the final moments.
Dries Mertens’ 82nd-minute penalty was followed by Fernando Llorente pouncing on an opportunity as the Reds chased a leveller, giving the home side an early headstart in the group after matchday one.
“I told him not to worry,” replied Ancelotti when asked what he’d said to Klopp on the touchline. “Because if he loses here, he tends to go and win the Champions League!”
This time there was no all-or-nothing showdown at Anfield, a 1-1 draw on matchday five suiting both parties quite nicely as Liverpool progressed as group winners with Napoli only one point behind in second.
But when Ancelotti and Napoli parted ways just hours after the final group fixtures were completed, the three-time Champions League winner was poised to fill the vacancy created by Marco Silva’s departure from Goodison Park in the wake of Liverpool’s 5-2 Merseyside derby victory a week earlier.
Klopp’s Liverpool v Ancelotti’s Everton
“I’d love to say I wish him luck…” joked Klopp in a press conference shortly after Ancelotti’s unveiling on the other side of Stanley Park. “Come on, it’s Christmas, I wish him luck!”
The two men had their first L4 skirmish in a third-round FA Cup tie just a fortnight after Ancelotti’s appointment. Beforehand, the latter held the slight head-to-head edge with three wins, two losses and a draw, but Klopp moved level in their January tussle.
A Reds team featuring three debutants and several Academy graduates withstood some serious pressure in the first half at Anfield before taking charge in the second, when Scouser Curtis Jones stepped up to smack the winner in off the bar with a satisfying thud at the Anfield Road end.
“I saw a sensationally good performance of a not very experienced team with a lot of players playing for the first time on this kind of stage, in front of this crowd, against the opponent,” exclaimed Klopp. “I loved each second of this game.”