Jurgen Klopp knows Manchester City will relentlessly punish all of Liverpool’s mistakes during Sunday’s showdown
Jurgen Klopp tried his best to suppress one of those big smiles, but by the end of the question it had become impossible. It was time to speak his mind about Pep Guardiola.
“I’m not sure I ever told Pep, but… I like him, it’s true!” said the Liverpool manager. “From time to time I annoy him with things I say in press conferences that are not meant to say anything bad about him or Man City, but then someone from the City staff says to him, ‘Klopp said this or that!’
“I can see from his press conference that he is getting very angry. Sorry about that! No, look, I have a lot of respect for him.
Jurgen Klopp was in a relaxed mood when he spoke about Liverpool’s game with Man City
Klopp and Guardiola have had their differences, but they have enormous respect for each other
‘We think we know a lot about each other, but we don’t. We meet for football matches. Two years ago we had a few situations where we went to Manchester together for trophies.
“Our families have met. I can tell you that someone with a family like Pep Guardiola must be a good person because his wife and children are excellent. That’s what’s important to me. So during the game what he says and what I say is not that important.’
It was striking that Klopp was so relaxed. There were points last season where such an investigation into his relationship with the Manchester City manager would have been met with angry looks and suspicion. The German was no doubt stunned by the frayed form of his team.
But thanks to Liverpool’s promising start, Klopp has once again felt at ease to dwell on Guardiola and the unique demands needed to try and emulate the teams and formations the Catalan is concocting.
Guardiola has been asking Klopp’s questions since they went head to head on a sweltering night in Dortmund in the 2013 German Super Cup, and the challenge has been to try and keep up the pace. It’s doubtful the couple will ever socialize, but in many ways they need each other.
Guardiola has been asking Klopp questions since they went head to head in 2013
Guardiola also complimented Klopp, saying the German had made him a better coach
“He helped me, his teams helped me become a better manager,” Guardiola admitted. “He took me to another level to think about football and prove myself as a better manager, with our teams, to try to beat them. That’s the reason I’m still in this business.
Jurgen challenges you to take a step forward. We did it in Germany, and for many years here in England. We have had many matches. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Both teams have the same idea and go out to score goals in different ways.
“He’s faster than us. But we both try to win the games.’
That’s what makes this latest rumble so fascinating. There was a sense of inevitability about the outcome of the final game in February, when City caught Liverpool at the lowest point and beat them 4-1, but this one is brimming with intrigue. No doubt Guardiola will have been on his mind long before this big week with trips to Stamford Bridge and the Parc des Princes.
Klopp claimed he regretted words taken out of context towards Guardiola in the past
City were fantastic at beating Chelsea seven days ago and it would be foolish to think they will not perform in the same way at Merseyside.
It’s why Klopp has thought equally deeply about the task ahead of him, figuring out how to block the roads that City’s symphonic pass can create. High stakes create high tension and one thing that is guaranteed on Sunday is that there will be a burn someday.
“I desperately want to win, he wants to do that, and we are completely different personalities,” Klopp said. “But I like and respect him and it is one of the biggest challenges in football to face his teams because they are good! I like that too, because it’s one of those games where you—” He paused to find the right words.
“Look, when people say about the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Champions League or whatever, at this level there is no mercy for mistakes,” Klopp said. “If you make a mistake you get punished and that’s pretty much the game against Manchester City always is.
“So you better not make too many mistakes, otherwise you will get a slap. But if you don’t – at least if you’re Liverpool – then you have a chance and I think it’s really interesting to give it a try.”
“If you make a mistake against Manchester City, you will always be punished,” Klopp told Pep.
Here was another remarkable snippet. The fact that Klopp emphasized his team’s potential, if only in passing, shows where he stands in his thinking. A blistering September, when they scored 20 goals in six games, shows that the momentum is back in their game.
During their bleak midwinter, when City were one of six successive teams to loot Anfield, Klopp was never confident that his team could compete well.
But now the opposite is true and the prospect of outwitting Guardiola excites him.
This isn’t a managerial rivalry based on enmity or mind games, as they were common twenty years ago, but it is one that has enabled both men to form teams that have played the best football in a generation.
Love is not lost between the clubs in general, but the respect between the men overseeing the operations has made this the must-see of the season. Klopp against Guardiola is as good as it gets. Prepare for the fireworks.