Lincoln boss Michael Appleton believes he must attempt to outwit the world’s best manager in Thursday night’s Carabao Cup tie against Liverpool.
Former Manchester United midfielder Appleton insists Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest of all time, but rates Jurgen Klopp top of the current pile.
“There’s some top drawer managers out there, but Jurgen has just got that edge on them all at this moment in time,” Appleton told the PA news agency.
“I worked with the greatest ever, in my eyes, and it will take some doing for someone to top Sir Alex.
“But at this moment Jurgen is right up there. Pep (Guardiola) has been in that position and he’s more than capable of being in that position again.
“(Jose) Mourinho’s obviously been in that position and same goes for him. (Hansi) Flick has just won the treble with Bayern (Munich) and (Carlo) Ancelotti is doing great at Everton.
“But at this moment in time Klopp has got to be, if not the best, certainly in the top two.”
Appleton, at his fifth club as manager and still only 44, will not try to second guess Klopp’s team selection for the third-round tie.
“He could make 11 changes on Thursday night and probably comfortably turn over any side in our division, five or six-nil,” said Appleton.
“But hopefully he’s going to come up against a group of players who are honest, humble and work their socks off for each other.
“My players have got plenty of energy, hopefully we can ride our luck on the night and our goalkeeper has a good night, you just never know.”
The former Portsmouth, Blackpool, Blackburn and Oxford boss, whose playing career was cut short by a knee injury at the age of 27, is currently building on the foundations laid by his predecessor at Sincil Bank, Danny Cowley.
Cowley guided Lincoln to two promotions in three years before departing to Huddersfield in 2019 and also led the Imps on their FA Cup run in 2017 when they became the first non-league club since 1904 to reach the quarter-finals.
But Appleton knows Lincoln’s recent cup pedigree will count for nothing against the Premier League champions.
“I’ve said to my players there must not be a time in the game at all, for any second, where we feel sorry for ourselves,” he added.
“That’s because even if it doesn’t go to plan and we’re three or four-nil down, Klopp and his staff will be looking to get a fifth one and a sixth one and a seventh one. They won’t care because that’s how they’re drilled.
“But we’ve earned the right to be here because we’ve had two good wins and it would be a shame not be aggressive and have a real go.”