Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has called Sunday’s trip to play Manchester City at the Etihad, live on Sky Sports, the “most difficult game in the world of football”.
The Premier League champions face the toughest test of their title defence so far when they come up against Pep Guardiola’s side, who are unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions.
League leaders Liverpool have five more points than City, having played a game more, and could lay down a potentially crucial early marker for this season’s title race.
Only one of the last 10 league meetings between City and Liverpool has been won by the visiting side, and Klopp is well aware of the challenge facing his players.
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“It’s a very difficult game, hopefully for both teams,” Klopp said. “So many things are different this year, nothing can be compared with last year or the year before.
“I enjoy these kind of games, I enjoy the preparation, but it doesn’t make it easier, it’s just a really tough task.”
On the challenge of being away from home, Klopp said: “We love playing at Anfield. It’s our home and that makes a difference, but I don’t think we’ve made a difference in our approach to home or away games.
“It’s not that we want to be dominating at home and like a deep-sitting team away. Saying that, against Man City exactly that can happen because of the quality they have.
“We lost there last year, but it’s not a game I like to consider with all the others because three days before we became English champions and it was a pretty special time for us.
“It’s not important if we play home or away, it’s important that we compete with our own plan, that we are brave, play football and defend with all we have. Then we will have a chance.
“It is very difficult. This is the most difficult game in the world of football.”
Klopp only interested in one horse in title race
The Reds’ boss says he has no time for talk of a two-horse title race between his side and City.
He praised the qualities of the likes of Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham and also warned against writing off Manchester United just yet.
“Each season starts at nil, we all have the same chance,” Klopp said. “This ‘two-horse race’ thing was never a phrase I used or even think.
“I’m only interested in one horse and that’s us.
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“Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester are really good. Everton – unfortunately – really good.
“Maybe I forgot somebody. Manchester United, people write off always pretty early and in the end they will be there as well.
“We all fight for the Champions League spots and when you are close enough to that, then you can be champion at the end of the season.
“I don’t know who will be top horse at the end of this season.”
Klopp: ‘I can’t help those who don’t see Firmino quality’
Klopp also launched a passionate defence of striker Roberto Firmino, following criticism over his lack of goals.
The Brazilian has netted just once this season and was replaced in the starting line-up for the Champions League clash at Atalanta by new signing Diogo Jota, who scored his first hat-trick for the Reds in a 5-0 rout in Bergamo.
“I don’t have to say one word about Bobby Firmino and how important he was for us, I don’t waste time with that,” Klopp said.
“He was the difference-maker in so many games without scoring. I would feel really embarrassed if I have to mention the qualities of Bobby Firmino.
“I can’t help these people if they don’t see it.”
Carra: It’s still Liverpool or City for the title
Jamie Carragher on the Pitch to Post Preview podcast:
“I still can’t envisage anyone besides Liverpool or Man City winning the league. I just can’t see that. I know Tottenham have started really well and I hope they have a great season and there are more challengers, but I just can’t see anybody else lifting that league title besides the big two of the last few years.
“I’d been very strong putting Liverpool as favourites for the title, but for the injury to Virgil van Dijk – not just one of Liverpool’s top players but one of the top players in the Premier League. And if something similar would have happened to, say, Kevin De Bruyne for Man City, who is their top man, I think you’d say the same for City. I think it makes for an even more interesting race, no doubt about that.”
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