The Klopp-Guardiola rivalry did not just start this season. It is a long feud that has been on for a couple of years now – 2013 if I am keeping up – and through it all, it has always seemed like Klopp trumps Guardiola everywhere they meet.
It played out when Klopp was in Dortmund and Guardiola at Bayern Munich and it has happened in present times too with one coaching Liverpool and the other coaching Manchester City. Whenever they meet, it was a battle of tactics.
This is why we look forward to a beautiful match on Sunday when Liverpool will host Manchester City at Anfield in a Premier League game that will once again decide who is the better tactician between the two.
It is even more interesting that this rivalry is the healthy type; the kind that allows one to look up to another. In this case, the one looking up being Guardiola. During his Bayern Munich loss to Klopp’s Dortmund, Guardiola had admitted he learned a lot when he played Klopp’s team and the 4-2 defeat was a ‘brutal welcome’ for him.
Over the years, they have become familiar foes, always at each other’s neck but it is fair to say Guardiola is still trying his best to learn how to beat Klopp since the Bayern scene played out. Last season was a constant reminder of that fact. Guardiola’s three consecutive defeats were a reminder that no manager causes problems for Guardiola as Klopp does.
First, it was the 4-3 reverse at Anfield that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten start to the season in January which was later followed by the crushing Champions League losses both at Anfield and the Etihad Stadium in April.
Through it all, Guardiola’s Manchester City conceded nine goals across the three games, proving how much better Klopp was to Guardiola in terms of tactics. It had played out that Liverpool set a trap for Manchester City and they had fallen for it which led them to being punished with Reds’ counter-attacks.
Should Klopp be worried this time?
The answer to that question should be yes. Let’s not forget the City-Liverpool match in September that ended in a 5-0 victory for Manchester City. Truly, the match won’t have ended with that much goals if Sadio Mane wasn’t sent off with a red but there was something Guardiola did differently.
Guardiola had recognised a problem and devised a solution to it with a change of formation. Manchester City usually play with 4-3-3 but that was discarded for 3-5-2, letting Danilo play alongside Stones and Nicholas Otamendi in a back three formation. This then had Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy playing as wing-backs.
If not for anything at all, this ensured that Manchester City’s defence was well protected against Liverpool’s counter-attacks.
If that situation repeats itself again on Sunday, then Jurgen Klopp might have a problem on his hands and will have to really worry about Guardiola. It’s well established that Liverpool play so well on the side but with back-wings that press forward, Liverpool’s attacks are neutralised and isolated.
The sooner Jurgen Klopp finds an alternative for when Guardiola tries to play that formation, the better chances the team has in winning the game on Sunday.
The Premier League match on Sunday will definitely be an interesting one, with the rivalry from managers who need to prove who is better and with clubs that have history. We might be seeing the most interesting match of the season but through it all, we have to make sure we take a win.