London (AFP) – Pep Guardiola confronts one of the few opposition managers to have regularly outwitted him when Manchester City visit Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the Premier League’s stand-out New Year’s Eve fixture.
Klopp was a thorn in Guardiola’s side during their time as rivals in the Bundesliga, with his Borussia Dortmund team overcoming the Catalan’s Bayern Munich four times in eight meetings.
Liverpool go into Saturday’s game at Anfield a point above City in second place and while Klopp says past encounters will count for little, he is relishing the prospect of resuming hostilities.
“We know everything about how Pep played with Bayern, but that is not important any more because it is different players and different systems,” Klopp said.
“In Holland it was Johan Cruyff and Total Football. He (Guardiola) was very nearly perfect with Barcelona. He had a big influence with Bayern and changed their style completely.
“He is an outstanding manager, 100 percent. I am not interested too much in giving things a name, but you can see on the pitch he is an influential manager.
“He has a clear idea and a pretty much good idea. He has had a fantastic career until now.
“He had a nice style with Barcelona and was really good with Bayern and now he is at City and he is there to be successful and not to show how good he is.”
Guardiola arrived in Munich in 2013, shortly after Bayern had pipped Klopp’s Dortmund to glory in the Bundesliga and German Cup and beaten them 2-1 in the Champions League final at Wembley.
Bayern swept to the Bundesliga title in Guardiola’s three seasons in Bavaria and Klopp left Dortmund after a disappointing seventh-place finish in the 2014-15 campaign.
But the bespectacled former Mainz coach gave Guardiola several bloody noses, beating him in the 2013 German Super Cup and inflicting his first home league defeat with a 3-0 win in April 2014.
Dortmund also beat Bayern in the 2014 Super Cup and eliminated them in the semi-finals of the German Cup in 2015.
– Aguero returns –
Having arrived at Liverpool in October 2015, Klopp has had almost a year’s head start on Guardiola in the Premier League.
But while Liverpool appear closer to the finished article than City, who lost back-to-back games against Chelsea and Leicester City earlier this month, there is little between them in the standings.
Both teams are chasing a fourth successive league win and with Chelsea six points clear of Liverpool at the summit, neither Klopp nor Guardiola can afford to lose momentum.
“We’re still in the title race,” says City left-back Gael Clichy. “Seven points is a lot. It’s a big gap and we won’t deny that.
“We’d like to be closer or even on top. But we have seen over the years teams dropping points for fun, teams coming back into the top four after two or three games.
“Chelsea are playing really well, as we were in the first 10 games of the season.
“We all know in football that one morning you’re there and the next day you’re not there anymore, so we have to be ready and take the opportunity when it comes.”
City beat Liverpool on penalties in last season’s League Cup final, but Klopp’s men enjoyed two resounding wins in the league, triumphing 4-1 at Anfield and 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
City, meanwhile, have not won at Anfield in the league since ex-Liverpool loanee Nicolas Anelka’s stoppage-time goal secured a 2-1 victory in May 2003 — a run of 13 matches.
The visitors will be buoyed by the return of top scorer Sergio Aguero, who has missed City’s last four games through suspension after being sent off for a wild lunge on Chelsea’s David Luiz.
Klopp has confirmed Liverpool, 4-1 victors against Stoke City on Tuesday, will once again be without centre-back Joel Matip and playmaker Philippe Coutinho due to ankle problems.
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