As a player or manager, it’s always about the next game, and for Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp the only focus today will be on Crystal Palace. As a fan, though, one is free to look ahead—ahead to next Wednesday and the Champions League.
A quarter-final against Manchester City. A chance to earn a spot in the final four. It’s set to be the biggest tie Liverpool have played in years, and while the players can’t look ahead to it, the fans can. Including, now that he’s no longer playing, Steven Gerrard.
“Those games can’t come quick enough,” Gerrard told JOE. “It’s top-class footballers looking to go toe-to-toe with each other in a very dominant, attacking style under two hugely respected managers who have very clear philosophies.
“It’s an exciting draw for both teams and both will believe they can progress through to the semis. We’ve seen some amazing games of football between them recently, and from a neutral point of view, I think it’s a 50-50 tie.
“Now from a biased point of view, I’ve got every confidence that Jurgen Klopp and the team can deliver over both legs because they’ve shown they can do it. The manager’s got a great record in Europe, he knows Pep Guardiola well, and the opposition inside out.”
Klopp and Guardiola certainly do have history, with the two having faced off 12 times before. More than that, of the seven managers who Guardiola has faced at least ten times, only Klopp has a winning record against the Catalan.
More than that, of the 27 managers Guardiola has faced at least five times, Klopp is the only won with a winning record—the only one Guardiola has earned less than 1.5 points a game against and one of just four he’s earned less than 2 points a game against.
Klopp has won six, Guardiola five. There has been just one draw. It adds up to a tie that does look 50-50. It should also be a tie filled with goals, unlike some past late-round Champions League match-ups Liverpool have had against domestic opposition.
As a player, Gerrard was involved in a series of games between Liverpool and Chelsea—“disciplined” and “cagey” affairs reflecting the managers, Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho. Liverpool vs. City, Klopp vs. Guardiola, is likely to be something very different.
“Under Jurgen and Pep it offers more as a spectacle,” Gerrard added. “I think it’s a tie full of respect in terms of the players and the managers. They’ve both been on the right and wrong end of results in these fixtures, which have been quite intense.
“It would be very silly for any individual involved to show disrespect or be complacent heading into a two-legged game of this magnitude. They’re the two most attacking teams in the Premier League and the best to watch.”