‘I see excellence when I face it’ – Klopp on Guardiola

8 March 2024 0 By Total Football News

Premier League leaders Liverpool host champions Manchester City on Sunday with both sides chasing history in a huge clash at the top of the table.

With the Carabao Cup already secured, Liverpool are seeking an unprecedented quadruple, while City could become the first team to win back-to-back Trebles.

It could also be a final league meeting between Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

“I do the job myself so I see excellence when I face it and Pep is definitely that,” said Klopp.

Liverpool and City have won every Premier League title since 2018, with Klopp’s side finishing top in 2020 and Guardiola a five-time winner.

“The way he has influenced football, winning the amount of trophies he was won in his career,” added Klopp. “But if you see him on the touchline he behaves like he has never won before. The desire he has is absolutely outstanding.

“In my lifetime he is the outstanding manager, definitely.”

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Though Guardiola and Klopp are familiar foes on the touchline, the pair have not had much chance to meet away from the dugout.

“Sometimes in the corridor before the press conference,” said Guardiola. “When we were honoured to get in the Hall of Fame we spent time with families, but in terms of lunch or dinners, it never happened. We have to decide who pays, that’s why we didn’t do it.

“I think it’s going to happen sooner or later, I would love it.”

Sunday’s match at Anfield kicks off at 15:45 GMT.

Three-way battle at the top

The top six of the Premier League table with Liverpool top on 63 points, Manchester City 62, Arsenal 61, Aston Villa 55, Tottenham 50 and Manchester United 44

Liverpool go into Sunday’s game just one point clear of City and with a superior goal difference of four goals.

But there is a three-way tussle for the trophy this season as Arsenal find themselves in contention after a blistering start to the year.

Mikel Arteta’s side have won their last seven league games to sit just two points behind Liverpool and have a superior goal difference to both sides. If the Gunners beat Brentford on Saturday they will leapfrog both Liverpool and City to the top of the table.

Liverpool have a fine record against Manchester City at Anfield, losing just once at home since 2003 and winning 13 of the last 20 fixtures.

Indeed just two of their last 30 Premier League encounters have been won by the away side.

‘Liverpool have always been Liverpool’

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Klopp’s shock announcement that he is to step down at the end of the season means Sunday could well be his final league meeting with Guardiola.

The two managers have won 24 honours between them in England, with both having the opportunity to add three more before the end of the campaign.

Klopp holds the direct head-to-head advantage – winning eight of their 21 meetings to Guardiola’s six.

Asked whether his job will get easier once Klopp has left, Guardiola said: “I would like to know, but I don’t think so. Liverpool have always been Liverpool and the contenders are there.

“Arsenal is already there, last season they were our biggest rivals. Look how they play. Liverpool need more than 90 minutes to win the game, Arsenal sometimes need 25 minutes to win the games. That’s why sometimes they are there.

“Tottenham will make a step forward and [Manchester] United will maybe be back.”

Grealish to miss out, Konate doubtful

Jack Grealish looking downcast after being substituted injured against LutonJack Grealish was visibly upset after being substituted with an injury against Luton in the FA Cup on 26 February

Guardiola has confirmed midfielder Jack Grealish will miss out with a groin injury suffered in the FA Cup win at Luton last month.

Jeremy Doku and Matheus Nunes will be assessed after training on Saturday following injuries.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah could make his first Premier League appearance for nearly a month after he made his comeback from injury as a substitute in the 5-1 win at Sparta Prague in their Europa League last-16 first-leg tie on Thursday.

Ibrahima Konate is a doubt after picking up an injury in the second half. Fellow defender Joe Gomez came off at half-time but will be available.

“Joe Gomez is fine. Ibou [Ibrahima Konate] I don’t know,” said Klopp. “He was rather positive last night. He made the decision [to come off] in the right moment, but I don’t know if it means a lot – I don’t have the results of it yet.

“All the others are fine.”