Steve McClaren is backing Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp to make a genuine bid for the Barclays Premier League title in his first season in English football.
The two men will be in direct competition this afternoon when McClaren attempts to end Newcastle’s dreadful run of form against the Reds, who will arrive at St James’ Park having won seven of their last eight games in all competitions.
However, he knows he will have his work cut out against a man who has hit the ground running in his new job, something he would dearly have liked to have done himself.
McClaren said: “Everyone comes into a club in different situations. I don’t think anyone would dispute what Brendan Rodgers had done. He had brought in some very talented players, and you have seen that Jurgen has taken that on.
“They are title contenders, I think now, in terms of the form they are in and the way they are going.”
Sunday’s game will not be the first time the two men have been in opposing dug-outs with Klopp having got the better of the Englishman when they were in charge at Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg respectively.
Dortmund won 2-0 at home and 3-0 away during the 2010-11 season with the latter proving to be the second last game of McClaren’s brief eight-month spell in German football.
The former England boss said: “My first two away games, one was at Bayern Munich and the next one was at Dortmund, and they were the up and coming team, really, that season.
“We played the first half and (Edin) Dzeko hit the bar and should have scored. We did well for one half and then second half, they just got stronger and stronger and we lost 2-0. By the time we played them again, they were top of the league and a really, really good team.”
McClaren will hope to improve significantly on his head-to-head with Klopp this weekend with pressure mounting after successive defeats by Leicester and Crystal Palace, prompting bookmakers to install him as favourite to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job.
He is, a course, a member of the club’s board, and asked for his assessment of the head coach, he replied with a smile: “He’s doing his damned hardest. The head coach is doing his damned best and his damned hardest. Keep going, son.”