Just like his team, Liverpool defender Ragnar Klavan has tended to save his best form for the most formidable opponents this season. Klavan is relishing the prospect of facing Sergio Aguero again this Sunday having excelled against the Manchester City striker in Liverpool’s 1-0 victory in December. The Estonian has also shone against Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“It’s been the same with the whole team performance,” said Klavan. “We played really good against the good sides and had not-so-great results with the teams where you would say we should get the points. It is easier for me if the pressure up front is really good, and the strikers can’t get good balls because our strikers are putting their centre defenders under pressure and their balls are not so great.
“For me, it was the first time to play against Aguero (in December). He is a great striker.
“You have to play a little bit differently, you can’t really storm into duels. He is a world-class striker but a lot of teams in the Premier League have world-class strikers so it’s nice to play against them. There is always a lot of respect for the strikers I play against but fear is not the word. He is one of the best for sure.”
Klavan is wary of a City team seeking an instant recovery from their Champions League exit.
Like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, Klavan traded the Bundesliga for the Premier League when moving from Augsburg last summer and says he understands why English clubs have struggled in the Champions League recently.
“For me it is the first season without a winter break. It is an advantage for the other leagues,” said Klavan.
“In Germany from Christmas to New Year’s Eve you have 12 days off and you can relax a bit. Then you go to a training camp for a week and before the Champions League starts again you will have two league games. So you have to get the rhythm again and then you go into the Champions League. This is not the only factor, but it is one of them, for sure.
“If you see the league, in every game you have to play 100 per cent and with a good team to win. Even if you play a lower side team they have so much quality, they are good teams. It is not like you can have a walk in the park and just concentrate on the Champions League on Wednesday. “Everyone who comes here – a player or a manager – has to adapt. It takes time.”
Given the style of both teams, the defender is expecting plenty of chances and goals at The Etihad.
“There are two ways it could go. Maybe they are wounded or maybe they are even more eager playing at home to show they want to win the game,” said Klavan.
“Pep Guardiola’s teams always want to play really nice, attractive football. It was always very clear to see when he was manager of Bayern Munich. But maybe in England it is a little bit different. In the Bundesliga, Bayern is the best team but in England the league is so equal, I think also in the beginning of the season you have at least six teams who can become champions so it is not so easy here.”