Klopp vs Guardiola: Battle of the Titans

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The microphone swayed slowly in the air of the silent, eager room, now abuzz with excitement watching the centre of the ring. Andriy Shevchenko takes hold of the microphone and with a knowing smile, eyes up the audience. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the heavyweight division. In the blue corner, we have Guardiola, the two-time European Champion, the megastar and golden boy. In the red corner, we have Klopp, the grafter, the eternal underdog. Tonight there’s sure to be some fireworks. Let’s get ready to rumble.’

Are Liverpool and Manchester City set for a collision course? Is a new rivalry soon to be born?

Historically, Liverpool have played Manchester City 178 times, with Liverpool winning 87, drawing 45 and losing 46 of those fixtures with City. More recently, with the backing of an oil-rich country, City are more competitive in world football and look set to win their 3rd league title well ahead of the trailing pack. In the past ten years since City’s major investment, the two clubs have met 24 times. It may surprise people to know Liverpool have won ten of those games, City six and the two teams drawing on eight occasions (in all competitions).

Yet both clubs have remained amicable. To a point, some fans have suggested in the past, ‘If not us, I’d prefer them to win it’ in regards to the league title. Why? A lack of competition between the two sides? It’s no secret we’ve fallen away from the top clubs over the past decade. In recent memory City have become the trophy magnet, City are the ones revelling in silverware. Perhaps City have not seen us as a threat, 13/14 season aside. Or perhaps it’s our mutual hatred for the third northern powerhouse, Manchester United that’s seen us remain on good terms?

Now, however, with Klopp and Guardiola’s arrival, the sands are shifting, both are aiming for the top, not only in domestic football but European too, with a huge clash in the Champions League Quarter-Finals on the horizon. Is a rivalry between the managers and clubs about to begin?

Klopp and Guardiola are arguably two of the most exciting managers in, not only the league but world football. As a manager Guardiola has won twenty-three major trophies, Klopp has won five and promotion for Mainz. On paper there is a stark difference between the two managers past achievements, in reality, they are much more comparable and both highly respected. Both managers enjoy attacking football and play with the intention of winning every game and it’s always a mouth-watering clash when the two managers line up opposite each other.

When discussing the two men it is hard not to reflect upon their individual approach to projects. Klopp views managing as a puzzle, piecing the team together patiently over a long period of time. Guardiola sees his team through the eyes of a short-term visionary. Unfortunately, this leads to the inevitable, a comparison of both clubs money spent in the transfer market. Since arriving in England, Guardiola has spent a whopping £478 million in his four transfer windows, with a net spend of £371 million. In comparison, Klopp has spent £221million in his five transfer windows at Liverpool yet has a remarkable net spend of -£35 million. Klopp has made the club money despite improving the team. Despite this, both teams play scintillating football, and with seven games to go (eight for City), both aim to break a 100 goals in the Premiership, with City currently on 85 goals and Liverpool on 73.

In the past the two men crossed paths eight-times in all competitions in Germany. Klopp’s rampaging Dortmund side won on four of those occasions (once on penalties in the semi-final of the German Cup), and Guardiola’s dominating Bayern managed four of their own victories. Collectively Klopp managed eleven goals vs. Guardiola’s eleven goals (not including the penalty shootout). Despite this 50:50 split in results, Guardiola dominated German football and the team Klopp built was on the decline.

Fast forward to present day and they’ve met a further four times in England. Klopp has managed two victories, Guardiola one, and both men shared points (at the Etihad) once, in what is one of the most exciting 1-1 draws I can remember. How often can you say that without a hint of irony? Those four clashes garnered Liverpool six goals and City nine. These stats are skewed slightly, however, as Mane’s contentious sending off at the Etihad in September spoiled what promised to be a mouth-watering clash, and up to that point, Liverpool looked very much in the tie. After reading those statistics you can better grasp Klopp’s tongue-in-cheek response when asked about the Champions League draw, ‘I saw Beguirstain’s face [after the draw] and he didn’t look like it was Christmas.’ Make no mistake about it, Guardiola is as fearful of Klopp as we are of him.

And for good reason. Our front three is in ridiculous form, with Firmino scoring 23 goals, Mane 14 and Salah 36 goals, that’s 73 goals from the front three alone and enough to give any opposition manager sleepless nights. It’s also why only a few months into the City job, on December 2016, Guardiola himself stated that Klopp is the best manager in the world at creating teams to attack the back four. Guardiola see’s Klopp’s Reds as a serious challenge to overcome. Not only for his team but himself professionally too.

For a man proclaimed as one of the managerial greats, it’s proven difficult for him to shake off that grinning, lanky German. Klopp has won six out of their previous twelve clashes, with Guardiola winning five. To put this into better perspective, Guardiola has played Mourinho twenty-times and beat Mourinho in ten of those games, lost only four to ‘The Special One’ and drew six. Wenger has played Guardiola on fourteen occasions and was beaten eight times, managing only three victories and three draws. So it is for good reason Guardiola fears Klopp. As Klopp said, it doesn’t look like Christmas for City, more like an intense tough Lent. Collectively it means Klopp’s teams managed seventeen goals to Guardiola’s twenty. We are also the only team in the league to beat City, that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Back in 2005, a rivalry was born thanks to the Rafa and Mourinho era as the then Liverpool and Chelsea managers. Both men were wily tacticians and arguably at the peak of their careers as they locked horns. It wasn’t long before tension between the fans boiled over and made the games a tense contest. It should also be noted at the time of winning the Champions League in 2005, we finished 5th in the table, four places off Chelsea in 1st and thirty-seven points behind them yet still beat Mourinho’s Chelsea in the Semi-final. We are currently eighteen points behind City. Can we cause another upset? Are we about to see something similar between Klopp and Guardiola and Liverpool and City? Only time will tell but after reviewing Klopp and Liverpool’s history against Guardiola and City, you’d suspect this isn’t the one-sided affair many people consider it to be.

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