Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp have underlined their respect for one another before Manchester City’s trip to face the league leaders at Anfield, with Guardiola admitting that the Liverpool manager is “the reason why I am still in this business”.
Guardiola will lock horns with Klopp for the 22nd time on Sunday – meaning only José Mourinho will have faced the Catalan on more occasions. Having lost 4-2 to Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund in their first encounter back in June 2013 in the German Super Cup final while at Bayern Munich, Guardiola has an identical record to his rival with nine victories, nine defeats and three draws.
Although Klopp has not seen his Liverpool side beat City since the 3-1 victory at Anfield in November 2019 on their way to a first league title for 30 years, Guardiola credited the German’s influence on his own development.
“He helped me, his teams helped me to be a better manager,” he said. “He gave me another level to think about it, prove myself, what I have to do to be a better manager with our teams to try and beat them. It’s the reason why I’m still in this business.
“There are some managers, Jürgen is one, to challenge you to move a step forward … Here we have many years, many competitions together. Every game was nice, both teams have the same idea, go to score goals in different ways; quicker than us, but in the same way to win the games.”
Klopp was quick to return the compliment, although he was unsure whether he had ever informed his City counterpart of his real feelings given the intense rivalry of their teams in recent campaigns.
“[I am] not sure if I ever told Pep but I like him! It’s true,” he said. “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 somebody on the City staff tells him that ‘Klopp said this or that’ and I can see in his press conference that he gets really angry. Sorry for that!
“It’s really one of the biggest challenges for all managers in football to face his teams because they are good. If you make a mistake you get punished and that is pretty much the game against Man City always. So you had better not make a lot of mistakes because otherwise you will get a knock. But if you don’t [make mistakes] – at least if you are Liverpool – then you have a chance and I really think it is interesting to give it a try.”
Two goals from Ilkay Gündogan in a thumping 4-1 victory ended City’s 18-year wait for a win at Anfield last season, although the Germany midfielder and Oleksandr Zinchenko remain sidelined and are expected back after the international break. Liverpool have conceded only once at home in the league, in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, but Guardiola does not expect his players to be intimidated by the presence of supporters this time.
“I am sure the players enjoy more to play with fans in Anfield than without,” he said. “We didn’t win at Anfield, I don’t know the reasons, the last four, five years [before last year] because it’s an exceptional team. The crowd helps, like in Paris, but it happens in big stadiums: in Germany at Dortmund, or Atlético Madrid. It happens, not a lot for intimidation but the quality of the opponent. We do our game with or without spectators.”