Jurgen Klopp has revealed his respect for rival Pep Guardiola for coming to England to take on the biggest challenge of his illustrious career.
Guardiola earned his glittering managerial reputation on his success with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, inheriting a gilded group of players at both clubs.
The Spaniard could have taken an easier job in a less demanding league, but chose to prove himself on the toughest stage of all – the Premier League.
And Klopp , who forged a rivalry with Guardiola in Germany, when he was in charge of Borussia Dortmund, praised his opposite number for having the courage to join City.
“What can I say?” said Klopp. “He came here with open eyes. He could have had easier jobs in easier leagues, that’s for sure.
“He could have gone anywhere, but he wanted to come here. He was probably aware, 100 per cent, of the big challenge.
“He knew he had a wonderful squad at Barcelona and a wonderful squad at Bayern, but he had big influence on the way they played football.
“If you go to Barcelona as a new manager, they will tell you, ‘By the way, don’t forget, we play like Pep Guardiola played’. That’s the biggest influence you can have.
“Bayern loved the years he was there. He’s a fantastic manager. Why did he come here? Maybe you should ask him.”
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Klopp, 49, and Guardiola, 45, have met eight times – both boasting four wins – with tomorrow’s encounter having the potential to be a classic, between two of Europe’s most progressive and forward-thinking coaches.
While Guardiola is revered for his aesthetically pleasing style of building from the back, Klopp’s success has been built on his high-octane, high-energy approach.
Both men have huge admiration for each other and their respective styles, with Klopp anticipating Guardiola will change his approach tomorrow and perhaps be more direct, to overcome Liverpool’s counter-pressing.
When Guardiola’s Bayern beat Klopp’s Dortmund 3-0 in their first meeting in 2013, the Spaniard changed his tactics and played more long balls, with the Liverpool boss suggesting there could be a repeat of that tomorrow.
“Yes, they changed their style of play against us a few times,” said Klopp. “Not always, but a few times. A clear philosophy doesn’t mean you stick to it in each moment.
“If you have to adapt to your opponent, then that’s what we all do. The public view on it was that they were pretty direct.
“Manuel Neuer is good with the ball, so the first ball was long, but, after winning the second ball, they played football and didn’t shoot the second ball immediately in the same direction again.
“The style of the game isn’t everything. It’s kind of important, but in the end you only want to get your players looking forward with the ball.
“How you do that isn’t important. It’s not about having 20 passes. If you have to play a long ball, that’s good, and fighting for a second ball is good, too. Then you want to have influence with the ball.
“It’s not a big difference between the ideas, but when you look from the outside, there’s an image that Pep is kind of possession and I am counter-pressing.
“For me, it’s not important, I don’t need names for things. We play the football we think that makes sense and Pep does the same with his team.
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“I never thought too much about the ideas of other managers – only until before the game when we played them.”
Guardiola has admitted he needs time to adapt to the unique nature of the English game, after dropping points at home to Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough, and suffering defeats to Tottenham, Leicester and Chelsea.
In that sense, Klopp has an advantage, having arrived in England eight months earlier, during which time he has transformed Liverpool into genuine title contenders.
The big question is whether Liverpool or City can catch leaders Chelsea, who have shown no signs of easing up on their remorseless winning run, which stands at 12 games.
Tomorrow will tell us which team is best equipped to challenge Chelsea in 2017.
Or whether both clubs are simply playing second fiddle to Antonio Conte’s champions-in-waiting.