EPL rivalry between Klopp and Guardiola has been one of the greatest

AP , Thursday 7 Mar 2024

The most enduring English Premier League rivalry in recent times will end this season when Jurgen Klopp steps down as Liverpool manager and, presumably, makes life a lot easier for Manchester City and Pep Guardiola.

Klopp vs Guardiola
Liverpool’s German coach Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City’s tactician Pep Guardiola of Spain are friends and rivals both on and off the pitch. Photo: AFP

 

Mikel Arteta may have something to say about that, but Klopp stands as the only man to break Guardiola's dominance of English soccer's top-flight over the past six years and looks to be the biggest obstacle to City winning a record fourth straight title.

Sunday at Anfield is potentially the last time Guardiola and Klopp face off as managers of City and Liverpool respectively. The stakes are as high as ever.

First-placed Liverpool leads City by one point.

Arsenal under Arteta has emerged as a credible title rival but Klopp is the only manager who has stared down a challenge from Guardiola and come out on top.

The German coach will walk away even though he has begun to rebuild a team that won a full set of trophies under him. Liverpool doesn't know yet how it will fill the void left by a man who transformed the club from a sleeping giant to a power again in European soccer.

Guardiola has repeatedly described Klopp's Liverpool as the biggest challenge of his coaching career, having edged them to the Premier League title by a single point on two occasions.

“I have this feeling that he’s leaving part of us at Man City, too, as Liverpool have been our biggest rival in his years. He will be missed. Personally, I will miss him," Guardiola said at the announcement of Klopp's departure in January. “But I am pleased because without him I will sleep a little bit better the night before we play against Liverpool.”

Arsenal is two points off the top in third. The Gunners face Brentford on Saturday and could be in first place by the time Liverpool and City kick off.

Liverpool has already confounded expectations by moving back into title contention so soon after losing stars such as Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson, Firmino and Fabinho. On top of that, Klopp has had to contend with an extensive list of injuries to the likes of Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Liverpool remains in contention for four trophies, having already won the League Cup with youth players.

Some of those injuries are clearing up, but City represents the biggest test of Liverpool's league title hopes.

Guardiola's team is defending the treble of trophies it won last year: Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

The midweek 3-1 win against Copenhagen in the Champions League extended its unbeaten run in all competitions to 20 games.

Even given the importance of Europe, Guardiola chose to rest some regular starters against Copenhagen with a view to Sunday's showdown. Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, John Stones and Kyle Walker were out of his starting lineup.

The majority, if not all, of those players will start at Anfield, where Guardiola's all-conquering team has struggled.

Only once has his City come away from Anfield with a win — 4-1 in 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic when fans were locked out.

On other occasions, City has appeared to wilt in the face of the daunting atmosphere created by Liverpool fans, while Klopp's fast-paced attacking style has repeatedly caught out City. But overall, City has had the better of Liverpool.

That's a frustration to Liverpool fans in what has been a golden era for the club. Sunday at Anfield marks a chance to redress some of that in Klopp's long goodbye.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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