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Liverpool can end City’s dominance but..

by: Entrust

Is Pep rattled already?
Pep Guardiola says that when he arrived at Manchester City, former assistant coach Brian Kidd told him not to pay any attention to the League Cup. “Play the young players,” Kidd advised. “Nobody cares.” Guardiola didn’t listen, though. He took the tournament seriously and led City to four consecutive triumphs between 2018 and 2021 – but felt he got very little credit for doing so.

So, imagine his surprise to see Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp universally lauded for winning this season’s Carabao Cup. “I don’t know what happened in these last years,” Guardiola said in his very first press appearance after the Reds’ 1-0 win over Chelsea at Wembley, “it looks like the final of a different competition.”

The bitterness was blatant, with Guardiola quite clearly feeling that the press was painting Liverpool’s triumphs, in 2022 and 2024, in a very different light to those of City – and not for the first time as far as the Catalan was concerned…


No credit for City?

Back in May 2019, after City had just pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title by a point, Guardiola suggested that his team’s achievements were taken for granted, that they were effectively victims of their own success.

“Liverpool have gone 29 years without winning the Premier League – so it’s normal people are waiting for them to finally win,” the former Barcelona boss said. “But if Liverpool had won the Premier League, it would have been an ‘incredible’ achievement. When City win, it is, ‘Oh, it’s OK. It’s an achievement…'”


‘Everyone in this country supports Liverpool’

Three years later, when City were locked in another gripping title race with Liverpool that they would once again shade by a solitary point, Guardiola went even further, claiming in an interview with beIN Sports that “Everyone in this country supports Liverpool, the media and everyone.”

It was an utterly ludicrous claim. If Guardiola had merely pointed out that there were – and still are – several ex-Liverpool players working in the media (Jamie Carragher, Danny Murphy, Jamie Redknapp etc.), it would have been fine. He could have argued that some pundits were far from impartial.

However, to allege that everyone in England supports Liverpool was just absurd when one considers so many rival clubs partake in ‘tragedy chanting’ at Anfield while mocking Merseyside over its socio-economic problems.

Guardiola then embarrassed himself further by making a petty reference to the Reds’ comparatively poor Premier League record. “Liverpool has an incredible history in European competition,” he added. “[But] not in the Premier League, because they’ve won one [title] in 30 years. But it’s not a problem at all.”

And yet Guardiola’s continued sniping would suggest otherwise.


‘Is it our fault?’

When the legitimacy of City’s title triumphs was called into question after the club was charged with 115 breaches of the Premier League’s financial regulations between 2009 and 2018, he fumed, “I don’t know if we are responsible for Steven Gerrard slipping [in 2014]… Is it our fault?”

In this instance, Guardiola subsequently displayed contrition, even going so far as to privately apologise to the former Liverpool captain for bringing him into an argument that had absolutely nothing to do with his most painful moment on a pitch.

However, there was no mea culpa from the Catalan after some of his City players were filmed singing a derogatory song ridiculing Liverpool while celebrating their title win in 2019 – just the classic “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” spiel.

Both City and their manager insisted that the line referencing Liverpool fans lying “battered in the street” wasn’t a sick shot at Sean Cox, who suffered life-changing injuries after being assaulted outside Anfield by Roma fans, but neither the club nor Guardiola felt compelled to explain why singing such a lyric was acceptable anyway.

‘They’re sick of us’

At the end of the day, though, City’s obvious dislike of Liverpool has proven a godsend for Guardiola. After all, it’s not easy to keep successful superstars motivated.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan effectively ran out of worthy rivals, so he used to invent enemies just to keep himself hungry – because, for some, keeping others down can be just as satisfying as staying on top. Indeed, Guardiola’s City have openly revelled in not just winning five Premier League titles, but restricting Liverpool to just one during a golden era at Anfield under Klopp.

“Liverpool are a mad team. They are a superb team. But I know they hate us,” former winger Riyad Mahrez told Canal+ in May 2022. “They’re sick of us because if we weren’t here, they would’ve won everything every year. But we’re here and we’re never letting go, and we’ll be here next year too.”


Pep’s City & Klopp’s Liverpool intrinsically linked

In that sense, Liverpool have actually helped keep City not only stay on top of their game, but also on top of the league. They just wouldn’t have won so many titles or broken so many records without the Reds – because they wouldn’t have had to play so hard, for so long.

As Guardiola said himself when Klopp announced his imminent exit, “I was shocked, like everyone, by the news, as I felt a part of Man City would be lost. We cannot define our period here together without him and Liverpool – it is impossible.”

Of course, it has been claimed that Liverpool and Manchester City cannot be considered one of English football’s greatest rivalries because Guardiola and Klopp respect one another so much. It’s also long been clear that Guardiola holds Anfield in the highest esteem – but it’s also true that he’s envious of the atmosphere it generates.

He effectively accused the Etihad crowd of being asleep during the two teams’ first Premier League clash of the season and is painfully aware that Klopp won’t have to rouse the crowd from their slumber when they meet again on Sunday.

There’s no doubt, then, that Guardiola will be determined to claim a first-ever victory in front of fans at Anfield, with his only previous win having come behind closed doors the Covid-19 pandemic.

There would be no better time to do it, either, with Liverpool desperately hoping to claim three points that would represent a huge boost in their bid to ensure Klopp bows out with a second Premier League title – the prospect of which will horrify City, and thus drive them.

City right to feel wronged?

Just look at the joy Guardiola derived from routing Liverpool at the Etihad last season, at a time when the Reds weren’t even in the title race. He even went so far as to celebrate a goal in Kostas Tsimikas’ face.

So, one can be sure that the news of the Klopp’s summer departure – and, more importantly, the outpouring of emotion that continues to come with it – will have only made Man City even more determined to win a fourth consecutive title as it would mean ruining the German’s farewell party. They simply won’t want Liverpool getting any of the credit that they feel they are so often denied.

Are City right to feel so wronged? Should Pep and his players feel both jealous of and annoyed by the way in which the media fawned over Klopp and his kids after winning the Carabao Cup? In a way, it’s irrelevant.

Ultimately, the belief that nobody cares when they win the same trophies as Liverpool has actually helped City rather than hindered them. Because while a love of winning has undeniably underpinned City’s sustained success, a hatred of losing to Liverpool has also helped.


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