Liverpool are back in Champions League action under the lights at Anfield tonight for their Round of 16 second-leg against Inter Milan, with a 2-0 lead in the bank from their successful trip to San Siro a fortnight ago. Their Premier League title rivals Manchester City are also playing this week, with their home leg against Sporting CP taking place on Wednesday.
Both teams have a foot already in the quarter-final stage, with Man City in a stronger position than their rivals down the River Mersey, but they are both two of the strongest squads in the competition. Liverpool, over the last four years have established themselves as one of European football’s top dogs, having reached consecutive finals in 2018 and 2019 while their boss Jurgen Klopp recently reached 50 wins as a manager in the competition following their first-leg win over Inter Milan.
The German has evolved into a master tactician on the European stage and his in-game management is exceptional. His side were largely on the back foot against Simone Inzaghi’s side in Inter Milan in the first-leg and were fortunate that their Italian opponents couldn’t take their chances. Knowing that he needed to freshen his side up to change the game he brought on the reliable Roberto Firmino who put the Reds in front with a delightful header before Mohamed Salah doubled their lead less than 10 minutes later. The momentum of the game flipped because of Klopp’s astute substitutions and it is decisions like that which sees Liverpool viewed as one of the favourites to be crowned European champions once more.
Jürgen Klopp shares why Liverpool and Man City bring out the best in each other 🤝
Two incredible teams.
Their experience in Europe over the last few years is something to be desired, particularly by Manchester City who are still going to be reeling from their defeat in last year’s final to Chelsea. When talking of in-game management, Klopp seemingly trumps Pep Guardiola, particularly in Europe because the lineup that the Spaniard put out for that final was not only questionable - but his German counterpart would have never made a selection like that.
However, when it comes to the Premier League, Guardiola and City have made that competition their playground over the last four years, even with Liverpool claiming a title in between their dominance. Liverpool’s recent rejuvenation under Klopp has helped create one of the greatest rivalries English football has seen and now his side are striving to keep this year’s title race alive. The Reds boss ahead of the Inter Milan game responded to Guardiola calling his side the toughest opponent by saying: “We’ve pushed each other on insane levels in the last few years.”
They are the two best sides to have ever graced the Premier League but currently City pip Liverpool as the greatest due to their number of recent titles. They have shown time and again, they are a class above the rest in England’s top-flight, as have Liverpool, but City’s recent record for titles compared to Liverpool’s shows that they have been the dominant force on home soil. It would be fair to say that Liverpool seem more equipped for the Champions League and Manchester City the Premier League. But it would be just to assume that each club would rather be in the other’s shoes.
For Liverpool, the last couple of years have been unbelievable, a sixth Champions League title followed by a maiden Premier League title, and their first league triumph in over 30 years. However, that season was tinted by the Covid-19 pandemic so neither supporters and the players could get the true title-winning experience that having crowds in attendance would have given to them. They experienced their European triumph together which was unforgettable, but there is no denying the Anfield faithful will want that same scenario in the Premier League. The atmosphere around the city would be indescribable with no Covid setbacks to tarnish their celebrations. They are currently six points behind City in the league with a game in hand, with the Reds still in with a chance of becoming the 2021-22 champions.
As for Manchester City, they have won everything there is to win domestically since their revolution in 2008 but the prestigious Champions League continues to elude them. The majority of their supporters would tell you that if they could win the league or the Champions League this year, they would tell you the latter. Not only would it be the crown jewel of their rapid rise over the last 14 years, but it would cap off the perfect reign of Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium and his legacy would be etched into the history of the club forever.
Both Klopp and Guardiola will leave a lasting impact on English football because they have both delivered incredible moments and they have set the bar high for the next generation of managers looking to make a splash on the way we view the game. Their professional rivalry may be coming to an end soon when Guardiola’s contract expires at the end of 2022-23, but they have given us some of the most exciting and competitive football the Premier League has ever seen.
The likelihood is that domestic and European glory awaits for either of these teams this term. The meetings between them are likely to determine who comes away with what in May.