By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp says it is simply a joy to carry out their analysis work on Manchester City ahead of Sunday’s Premier League title clash at the Etihad Stadium.
The two teams, who have dominated the league over the past five seasons, are seperated by just a point with leaders City hoping they can restore some breathing space with a victory.
Since Chelsea won the title in 2017, no team has come close to competing with the North West pair at the top of the table, with Liverpool’s triumph in 2020 the only time Pep Guardiola’s side have missed out on top spot.
Klopp is used to taking on Guardiola’s teams with his Borussia Dortmund side twice losing out to the Spaniard’s Bayern Munich team before the pair locked horns in England.
“If I would be a different person I would be, probably, a little bit depressed about the fact that Pep Guardiola is constantly coaching these kind of teams,” Klopp said on Thursday in an interview with Premier League Productions.
“Maybe in Dortmund we could’ve won more titles if Pep wouldn’t have been at Bayern. Now, it is pretty much the same, imagine if he would not be here, we probably could’ve won at least one more league title. But I am not like this, thank God. So, I am completely happy with our situation,” he said.
Guardiola has made no secret of his admiration for Liverpool, recently calling them the toughest opponent he has faced in his career as a manager and the feeling is mutual.
“I respect a lot what they do, it’s an insane football team. And, for me, the world’s best manager,” added Klopp, who said the task of studying Guardiola’s side ahead of the game is a rare pleasure.
“I couldn’t respect more what they are doing. I like watching them. I cannot say I love a lot of opponents, or competitors, but I really like watching City.
“So, always when we play them, the analysis is a mix of serious work and real joy… it’s fantastic football. It’s, like, the next level,” he said, stressing City’s ability to tighten and expand spaces on the field.
Liverpool have not won any of the last four meetings between the teams, including the 2-2 draw at Anfield in October, but momentum in the title race has shifted towards Klopp’s side.
City had a 13-point lead in mid-January although Liverpool had played two games fewer at that point.
Draws at Southampton and at home to Crystal Palace along with a home defeat to Tottenham allowed Liverpool to close the gap with a 10-match winning run.
Seven games remain for the teams after Sunday’s clash but with both so consistently dominant, the outcome of their face-off could be crucial.
City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne says the players are relishing the prospect of a classic.
“I think everybody is looking forward to it. I think the players will take it as a privilege to play these games,” he said.
“As a player you want to win games and trophies and if you want to do that then you need to win these big games. But if you win, draw or lose, there is still a lot to play for.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis)