There’s no going back from here.
Well, there was probably no going back two months ago; but the rivalry between Frank Lampard and Jurgen Klopp has now reached a critical juncture.
As Chelsea prepare to meet Liverpool for the first time since Lampard’s X-rated rant sparked a war of words between the bosses, familiar memories of a clash from yesteryear are evoked which Lampard knows all too well.
Last season Klopp would hardly have felt threatened by Lampard’s presence in the dugout.
After all, Chelsea were at the start of a new era filled with youth products and almost starved of big-name signings.
This time it’s different, and you can already feel the tension between both managers in what looks to be a situation with its most fearsome days to come.
It didn’t take long for Lampard to become irked by the Premier League’s new order.
Used to such dominant success at Chelsea as a player, the Blues boss had to stand by and watch as Liverpool were crowned champions in July. And it clearly bothered him.
“One title you’ve won and you’re f****** giving it the big ‘un! F*** off!” Lampard shouted in an X-rated rant at Liverpool’s bench mid-match.
Speaking after the game Lampard added: “Some of the bench, it’s a fine line between when you are winning – and they’ve won the league, fair play to Liverpool Football Club – but also don’t get too arrogant with it.”
Some statement from someone whose most notable successes as a player came through the school of Jose Mourinho.
But it’s that era under Mourinho which has shaped Lampard’s tenacity as a manager.
Gone is Mr Nice Guy. Lampard is a born winner, and as such, is now in direct opposition to the man he left angry with his post-match comments.
Klopp had no issue with Lampard’s rant during the game, but certainly took umbrage with how his opposite number carried on.
“For me, after the game, it’s completely over,” Klopp said. “He has to learn to finish speaking about it after the final whistle, and he didn’t do that.
“Speaking about it after the whistle is not okay.”
Verbal handbags at best. But it elevated their rivalry to a new level ahead of Sunday’s encounter between the sides at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool are keen to repeat last season’s success – and you don’t want to miss a thing, surely?
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Liverpool got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds.
In terms of transfers the Reds have completed the signing of Thiago Alcantara and Wolves’ Diogo Jota is arriving too.
Youngster Ki-Jana Hoever is set to head to Wolves in a £10million deal, while Gini Wijnaldum continues to be linked with Barcelona. There’s a lot to keep track of.
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Since their initial war of words Lampard has invested heavily in his squad on some big players – one of whom, Timo Werner, was snatched from under the noses of their Merseyside rivals.
While Lampard has played down his side’s hopes of pipping Liverpool to a trophy, he will no doubt be intrigued to see how close his new recruits will run the champions in their next meeting.
His spending has even been a contentious point between the pair, as Klopp recently addressed Liverpool’s lack of signings by stating his club “could not change overnight” and “behave like Chelsea”.
Those barbs could have easily been ignored by Lampard, but he’s already in it for the long haul.
“I was less annoyed with it, I found it slightly amusing,” was his response.
It wouldn’t be the first time the managers of Liverpool and Chelsea clashed in this manner.
When Rafa Benitez and the aforementioned Mourinho first butted heads it was nothing more than a tasty Premier League battle.
How quickly that changed. Close-run fixtures between the two soon saw Benitez and Mourinho at loggerheads.
None more so than in both their initial 2004/05 season, characterised by Mourinho’s shushing celebration in the Carabao Cup final, followed by Liverpool’s ‘ghost goal’ in the Champions League semi-final.
The pleasantries were no more, and what followed was a managerial rivalry as fierce as we’ve seen in the modern era.
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Frank Lampard’s team have made wavs by signing Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech, Malang Sarr and Thiago Silva.
And they don’t seem keen on slowing down yet. one player who continues to be linked with the Blues is West Ham and England midfielder Declan Rice.
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Lampard was there every step of the way too. Rivalries like that are not easily forgotten.
When Benitez faced Mourinho while respective manager’s of Newcastle and Man Utd years later, the personal rivalry had diminished somewhat.
But while the two clubs were on different levels, chasing different targets and ambitions, thus reducing a large element of the competitiveness between them, there was still a little friction bubbling under the surface.
Such a scenario was arguably in play between Liverpool and Chelsea last season as the Reds ran away with the title while Lampard’s side just about seized a top four spot.
But there can be no denying the football landscape has since changed.
Who will win between Liverpool and Chelsea? Have your say below.
Chelsea are now on Liverpool’s radar, more so after Lampard’s outburst, and they could prove as much if they take anything from Sunday’s match.
Klopp does not seem the type to hold grudges. His relationship with Man City boss Pep Guardiola is arguably testament to that. Though he will always fight his corner.
And the Reds boss will no doubt have one eye over his shoulder from now on – particularly if Lampard does as he hopes to do by “closing the gap”.
Come Sunday there will be the pre-match handshake, maybe even a friendly smile or a few words exchanged.
But as far as rivalries go, we might only be just getting started.
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