Liverpool will play Luton in the Premier League for the first time in 21 years, with Jurgen Klopp full of admiration for the miraculous journey that has ushered the Hatters to the Premier League.
Klopp is relishing his first visit to Luton Town’s humble Kenilworth Road. Not only is he full of admiration for the way the Hatters have clawed their way from National League to Premier League, he also has his own precious memories of the time he guided Mainz from the depths of the German second division and into the Bundesliga for the first time in their history.
Two years ago, he argued against the proposed European Super League – even if it might have eased the kind of fixture list that will see Liverpool travel to Manchester City next month, just days after players from both clubs will have been thrown into the maelstrom of a World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina.
He describes Luton’s rise back up the pyramid “a fairytale” – but knows those chronicles often involve a giantkilling. “Luton is one of these stories we all like,” said Klopp. “It’s a fairytale and I hope they have a wonderful season – apart from the games against us.
“I was in a similar situation when we got promoted with Mainz. Because I was in that situation, I respect Luton maybe the most for what they are doing. I love the fact that Luton can play in the Premier League. That is absolutely fantastic.
“Of all the things we want to change and have to change for the future (of football), if there is no way through for one team then it hinders development. These stories must always be possible.”
Liverpool’s journey south with be their 16th game of the season. On Thursday they travel to Toulouse in the Europa League before a home clash with Brentford brings an international break.
When Alexis Mac Allister returned from playing for Argentina in Bolivia in September, he was so exhausted that he was substituted after 45 minutes at Wolves that weekend.
And Klopp, who has been constantly banging the drum about protecting players from burn-out, believes the hectic schedule was one of the reasons the Super League proposal gained traction. He added: “I am not a supporter of the Super League – but I understand it more when I see where some clubs are coming from.
“It’s fantastic that every week can be romantic but we have spoken a lot about the main issue, which is to have quality and not have teams playing against each other when they can barely move their legs.
“We have to cut off games. That’s the problem, too many games – and it is getting more and more and more with bigger World Cups and bigger European Championships. At one point we have to have a conversation.”
Klopp refuses to be condescending about the best Rob Edwards and his Luton players can hope for this season. Mainz punched above their weight for three years before being relegated – but are now established in the Bundesliga.
Klopp said: “I was part of a fairytale and it was nice – but a lot of times it ended with the first whistle. We would say ‘ah, great, it’s Bayern’ – and then afterwards it didn’t feel that great.
“I’m not saying for Luton it’s the same, but there are times when you celebrate a draw like it’s a win. So I like the Luton story and I just hope they are smart enough to cherish the situation they’re in.
“When we got promoted with Mainz, my boss said that the next year in the Bundesliga would be like a holiday because there was none of the pressure of the second division. We were disappointed when we got relegated, but it was not the end of the world.”