Chelsea might be surging under new manager, Maurizio Sarri’s exciting brand of football, but it is Liverpool who, front to back, represent the clearest challenge to the threat of a Manchester City hegemony in the Premier League.
On the back of a record-breaking campaign last season that saw them leave 2nd-place Manchester United 19 points behind in dust, the Citizens, led by the inimitable Pep Guardiola, have started off the 2018-19 on fine form, dispatching all comers with their unrelenting, if dubiously-funded, quality.
However, Jürgen Klopp’s Reds have done their best to keep last year’s champions from resting on their laurels, setting a club record on their way to sitting a mere two points behind the Manchester side nearly a third of the way through the season.
Despite a surprise 0-0 draw in the first meeting between the two front league runners in October, it is only the Redmen and their manager who Guardiola has admitted keep him up at night. Three wins for the Citizens in their last 12 fixtures between the two—including the 5-1 capitulation over two legs in last year’s Champions League semifinal—has highlighted Liverpool’s dominance over their fellow title challengers in recent years. Furthermore, no one has a better record over Guardiola than Klopp, stretching back to their clashes in the Bundesliga.
Widely-hailed as the second-best manager in the world, the enigmatic Catalan was interestingly enough, invited to speak at the University of Liverpool’s Peers Annual Lecture on Wednesday night, revealing how thoughts about his English rivals invade even his private time.
“I love to read, but I don’t read,” Guardiola said half-jokingly according to reporting by the Liverpool Echo. “I start to read and then I start to think ‘Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’ and I cannot focus!
“People say I read books. I don’t read books. I have a nice library and sooner or later I will read them but I don’t have the time. But when you read poetry, you feel better.”
The battle starts in the mind, the adage goes. And with their Red rivals down the M62 within touching distance despite not yet even kicking into gear, Guardiola will be fully aware that the fight is only just beginning.