Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez has “learned a lesson” after serving his three-match suspension for violent conduct, says Jurgen Klopp.
Nunez – signed from Benfica prior to the season – was sent off on his Anfield debut for headbutting Joachim Andersen in a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on August 15.
The forward subsequently missed Liverpool’s defeat to Manchester United, their 9-0 thrashing of Bournemouth and Wednesday’s dramatic 2-1 win over Newcastle United.
Klopp is thrilled to have Nunez back in the fold ahead of Saturday’s Merseyside derby with Everton at Goodison Park, while Diogo Jota could also be involved after returning from injury, but Liverpool’s manager is sure his new striker has learned a valuable lesson when it comes to keeping his cool.
“He learned a lesson! He’s in really good shape,” Klopp said.
“If you look how we came through the last two games, winning, we don’t see it as a bad thing. We tried to give him extra input physically as well as tactically.
“Diogo will probably be in as well for the first time, so it’ll be the first time with five attackers, it’s like Christmas. We will make changes, we will see.
“He’s really happy that he’s not suspended. For some time always I’ve given him a high five but a slap as well, just so he doesn’t forget! That can stop now.
“He’s looking forward to it. His English didn’t improve much in 10, 15 days, so I don’t know exactly, but it looks like it.”
Apologies to Liverpool all
I’ll be back pic.twitter.com/iszTdSAx2i
— Darwin Núñez (@Darwinn99) August 16, 2022
Asked if his central defenders – likely to be James Tarkowski and former Liverpool man Conor Coady – would look to rile Nunez, Everton manager Frank Lampard said: “They’re just going to do their jobs. The best way to wind him up, if you can even call it that, is to do your job.
“He’s a top player, that’s why he comes at that price tag, the level of player is big, we know that, but they’ve also played a few games without him where they’ve performed very well.
“We have to concentrate on ourselves and the best way to get an advantage in games is to perform and be on it.”
Roberto Firmino has filled in up front in Nunez’s absence, and has scored three times in the last two matches, taking him past 100 goals in all competitions for Liverpool.
“The timing was perfect, he played exceptionally,” Klopp said of Firmino. “I said before, I liked a lot of the United game even if people didn’t agree with me, and then obviously against Bournemouth.
“He’s really important for us, the Bobby we know, you cannot score 100 goals if you have a lot of downs, but if you have a lot of ups it is maybe possible and that’s why he’s reached this number, which is pretty special. Really happy for him. The applause of the guys was nearly as loud as when we scored against Newcastle, everyone is really happy for him.”
Lampard has lost all four of his league matches against Klopp, who has won two of his six derbies at Goodison Park, drawing four, though the corresponding fixture last season finished 4-1 to Liverpool.
Everton’s record in the fixture is woeful, with the Toffees winning only one of their last 23 matches against their rivals since October 2010.
While Liverpool have yet to win on the road in the Premier League this season (D1 L1), having won seven of their last eight away from home in 2021-22, Everton are without a victory from their five top-flight games, though they have drawn the last three.
With the Merseyside derby having seen more red cards than any other Premier League fixture (22), and 24 of them finishing as draws since the start of the 1992-93 season, Klopp is anticipating another intense contest.
“Tight game, pretty much most of the time, even the games we won, a big fight, we cannot ignore that, but you have to play football as well, that’s the challenge,” he said.
“From this point of view, the Newcastle game was perfect preparation, it was really intense and showed us what we have to expect.
“The more that you can put in football as well between these fighting moments, the more you can get from the game.”