Jürgen Klopp anticipates a step up in intensity for Liverpool when they tackle his former club FSV Mainz 05 on Friday evening.
The Reds got their pre-season match programme under way on Tuesday with back-to-back 1-1 draws in half-hour contests against Wacker Innsbruck and VfB Stuttgart.
Next up in Austria is a 90-minute fixture versus Bundesliga side Mainz, a team with whom Klopp retains a special bond following his lengthy spells as both player and manager.
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There will be a familiar face in the opposition dugout, too – Bo Svensson, who played under Klopp at Mainz, was appointed their head coach at the beginning of 2021.
Having named two entirely different XIs for the two friendlies earlier this week, the Liverpool boss again intends to ration minutes over the course of this game.
Klopp told Liverpoolfc.com: “The only thing I hope for my former club is they don’t beat us 4-0 because always when Mainz beats Liverpool 4-0, at the end of the season they get relegated. So we have to avoid this result with all we have!
“That will be a tough one, clear, but no problem. They are good. My former player is the manager there now; again a former player of mine is the manager now at Mainz, which is great.
“Looking forward to seeing them and the game is the next step for us definitely. Then the normal situation with a lot of changes, 45 and 45 I’m pretty sure. Then let’s go for that.”
On the sense of a reunion with Mainz, he continued: “Actually there are not that many people anymore that I still know – but now the manager again and the sporting director or head of football.
“So, yes, this club is more, for me, than meeting old friends or players or whatever. I was 18 years there so I’m just interested that they are doing well because a lot of people I know care a lot about this club. It’s important to them, so it’s important to me.”
From February onwards, Mainz lost just two of 15 Bundesliga games to stave off fears of relegation and end the 2020-21 campaign in 12th place.
Klopp was delighted to observe the side’s upward trajectory under Svensson.
“They were game over pretty much,” he said. “Then Bo came in, Bo and Christian Heidel came in and since then, I don’t know exactly but I think the table from the moment since Bo was in, I think they were second or third or something like that – qualified for Europe definitely.
“So they played an exceptional second part of the season and I was really pleased about that because I follow it still. Obviously the next proper coach arrived at Mainz, really pleased for them.”