Liverpool — Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool cannot lose their heads looking for revenge when they face Everton in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.
Virgil van Dijk suffered a season-ending cruciate knee ligament injury when the sides last met at Goodison Park 13 months ago due to a wild lunge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Thiago Alcantara was also sidelined for months by Richarlison’s late challenge in a bad-tempered contest despite the absence of fans.
For the first time in nearly three years, a derby will take place in front of a full house at Goodison as Everton aim to halt their slide by damaging Liverpool’s title challenge.
But Klopp said the Reds have to concentrate on letting their football do the talking.
“We play football. We are still an emotional team but you have to use the emotion in the right way and that’s the plan,” Klopp said on Tuesday.
“We know what our supporters want and we try to fulfil their dreams and wishes.
“Derby games are more in focus but from our point it is a football game which we have to approach like a normal one.”
Van Dijk scored his first goal since returning to full fitness on Saturday in a 4-0 demolition of Southampton as Liverpool closed to within two points of league leaders Chelsea.
Klopp believes it will be impossible for the Dutchman to forget what happened on his last trip to Goodison, but backed his talismanic centre-back to cope with the experience.
“Virgil is very experienced and he has now these kind of situations constantly since he was back where he has always dealt with all these kind of things,” added Klopp.
“He has to be completely free of all things he could have in his mind because of one issue in the past.”
Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is under increasing pressure as Everton manager after a run of just two points from a possible 21.
The Toffees have been without a number of key players due to injury.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not featured since August, while Richarlison, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Yerry Mina have also spent long spells out.
Doucoure made his return in a 1-0 defeat to Brentford on Sunday, while Richarlison is available after missing that match through suspension.
Benitez’s appointment was not popular among the Everton support for his history as a Champions League winning coach with Liverpool.
But the Spaniard is hoping that a first home win against their local rivals since 2010 can revive Everton’s season.
“It’s a massive game for us, the derby is always an opportunity to put things right,” said Benitez.
“A derby is always special in every country but I live in the city so the passion is massive and really important for everyone.
“That’s why I want to win and do well because for us as a club, it’s important to bring back the confidence and use an opportunity to change things for the rest of the season.”