Chris Wilder has declared that if Liverpool are to get three points at Sheffield United on Saturday, it will be ‘over the dead bodies’ of his players.
The Reds have made a perfect start to the new campaign and top the table by five points, with Saturday’s opponents sitting in tenth.
They were favourites to go down this season but Wilder has consistently refused to make up the numbers.
The Blades have already come from two goals down to salvage a draw at Stamford Bridge last month.
Wilder understands that the club’s supporters will be excited to welcome the European champions so soon after their return to the top flight, but doesn’t want that sense of anticipation to spill over into admiration.
“I don’t want our players to look at them all starry-eyed,” he said, as quoted by the Independent.
“Of course, playing the best team in Europe at Bramall Lane was always going to be one of the fixtures to look forward to when we got promoted back to the Premier League.
“It’s a reward for the supporters, who have stuck with us through thick and thin, and the challenge for us now is to make sure this becomes a regular fixture in the Premier League.
“But I don’t want the players speaking to their players before and, ‘can I swap shirts and any chance of signing this?’. And they won’t.”
The 52-year-old, who oversaw a smash-and-grab victory on Merseyside against Everton last weekend, has told the visitors to expect a real battle
“We are playing them on a level playing field in the Premier League and we deserve to be here. Of course there’s enormous gaps between the both clubs at the moment and we’re trying to make that gap a little bit closer.
“I don’t want Liverpool to come here into our backyard and go, ‘well, thanks very much that’s the easiest three points we’ve picked up all season’. If they do win, I want it to be over our dead bodies.”
Many promoted teams would almost write-off this fixture, acknowledging that their season-defining points are likely to come elsewhere.
But Wilder’s different approach is in some ways refreshing, and Jurgen Klopp will be very wary of complacency going into this one.