Wednesday, 6 July, 2022

Liverpool, Man City brace for Etihad showdown

Liverpool, Man City brace for Etihad showdown
Liverpool and Manchester City players train during their respective practice sessions ahead of the high-voltage Premier League match, scheduled today at Etihad Stadium. –COLLECTED PHOTOS

Jurgen Klopp says he is preparing to face "the best team in the world" when Liverpool and Manchester City lock horns in a fixture that could decide the destination of the Premier League title.

Sunday's enticing encounter at the Etihad is the standout match of the season so far as the two dominant forces in English football battle for supremacy.

Just one point separates the pair, with Liverpool -- 14 points behind City at one stage -- having relentlessly hunted down their rivals. Manchester City have barely stumbled in their pursuit of a fourth Premier League crown in five years but a few dropped points here and there have let Liverpool back into the title race.

Klopp's men, chasing an unprecedented quadruple of trophies this season, are breathing down City's necks after a remorseless 10-game winning run in the league.

The German knows his side can ill afford to lose at the Etihad -- where they have not won in the league since 2015 -- but does not feel victory in Manchester would be decisive.

"If you win against City, which is already difficult enough, I think nobody would think, 'OK, that's it decided' because of the quality of the opponent," he said.

"We play now against the best team in the world, that's how it is, but we will give it a try anyway." The two sides also meet in the FA Cup semi-finals the following week in a season-defining period for both but for now all eyes are on the Etihad.

A win for Liverpool would put them in pole position to lift the Premier League trophy for a second time in three seasons.

But a Liverpool defeat or even a draw would leave reigning champions City as the favourites to retain the title.

"There is no game in world football you can compare to play against City because they are good in pretty much all areas. There are no real weaknesses," Klopp told reporters on Friday. "You have to show the respect they deserve, especially against City as they are pretty good with the ball."

Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola admits Liverpool manager Klopp is the biggest rival of his career. Guardiola's admiration for Klopp is so strong that he rates the German as an even bigger rival than his old nemesis Jose Mourinho.

"In the last five years they have been the biggest opponent. They have been an incredible, marvellous contender, with good games," Guardiola told reporters on Friday.

"Jurgen, as a manager, has been the biggest rival I've ever had in my career and I think what both teams propose is good for football."