Liverpool and Chelsea face off on Friday evening in an eagerly anticipated clash between two Premier League heavyweights. The fixture also pits two of the most eccentric managers in world football against one another. For the first time in their careers, Antonio Conte and Jürgen Klopp will lock horns in a competitive fixture. Here, talkSPORT examines the pair in an attempt to predict who will come out on top…
The two mavericks have taken contrasting routes into the world of football. Klopp spent the entirety of his playing career with Mainz 05. He represented the club for 21 years, racking up 337 appearances – yet never won any honours. Originally a striker, the 49-year-old eventually dropped back to play as a defender.
Conte on the other hand, enjoyed a career littered with success. The combative midfielder enjoyed domestic and European glory during his time with Juventus. He also represented his country, guiding Italy to the finals of both the World Cup in 1994 and the European Championships in 2000.
While he may have experienced a rather tepid playing career, Klopp really found himself as a manager. Appointed as Mainz manager in 2001 following his retirement, the German remained in charge for seven years. After leading the Carnival Club to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history, Klopp joined Borussia Dortmund where his stay was far more successful. Two consecutive Bundesliga titles as well as the German Cup in 2012 helped enhance Klopp’s reputation as one of the most exciting managers in the world.
Conte’s success as a player continued through to his managerial career. The Italian led Bari to promotion from Serie B in 2009, yet it was back at his old club Juventus where he made his name. He created an imperious side that dominated Serie A, picking up three Scudetto’s as well as going unbeaten for the entirety of the 2011-2012 season.
Jurgen Klopp has declared he plays ‘heavy metal’ football, and it’s hard to remove that image from your mind when you watch his sides. The chaotic and frantic pace Liverpool and Dortmund operate at is weirdly similar to the intense music the German is a fan of. Utilising a possession based brand of football, with emphasis on high pressing, the Reds are a far more explosive and dynamic side since the days of Brendan Rodgers.
Conte is famed for his rigorous and no-nonsense tactical approach. His players are expected to abide by his dogged defensive stance, which may well come from his will to win. Conte once described losing as ‘a state of virtual death’. Under his new regime, Thibaut Courtois has only had to face seven shots in the Premier League.
There is rarely a moment on the side-line at Anfield where Klopp cannot be found wildly gesticulating or gesturing. After Sadio Mane’s brilliant solo goal against Arsenal earlier thjis season, the German sprinted onto the Emirates turf and proceeded to hoist the Senegalese striker into a piggyback. When his over-exuberant celebrations at Carrow Road last season saw him break his glasses, Klopp told talkSPORT: “I usually have a second pair of glasses but I can’t find them because it’s hard to find glasses without glasses!”
Not one to be outdone, Conte is also famed for his energy and passion on the touchline. During Italy’s European Championship victory over Spain this summer, the 47-year-old clambered onto the roof of the dugout in an attempt to celebrate with his countrymen in the stands.
Klopp has been sporting a much fuller hairstyle since his leaving Dortmund. The German is not shy either when discussing the results of his transplant. When asked to confirm the rumours, Klopp confidently replied: “Yes, it’s true. I underwent a hair transplant. And I think the results are really cool, don’t you?”
Conte himself has undertaken drastic measures to restore his thinning hairline. The Italian may have been the stalwart of a successful Juventus side during his playing days, yet his hairline was certainly not as solid. Since the operation, his much fuller mane has become a familiar sight on the touchline.
So which manager do you think has the edge?
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