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Why Man City don’t have to slay Klopp’s mentality monsters to beat Liverpool FC – Simon Bajkowski


It wasn’t clear how cutting Pep Guardiola was being when he rhetorically asked how many centuries it had been since Liverpool had lost at Anfield.

Some Manchester City fans may have felt like an age since they last saw the Blues win there with their last victory coming in 2003 while you have to go back 45 matches to April 2017 for the last time Jurgen Klopp‘s side tasted Premier League defeat there against anyone.

Their appetite for comebacks and late winners has rightly been praised and Guardiola insists he was trying to do just that as he was tying himself in knots over successive interviews over the last week. You wonder, though, whether he has been to also suggest that it is not quite as made out – that Liverpool aren’t indeed invincible and that their special talent is not quite as unique as could be perceived.

City’s manager believes there have been differences in the way his team are portrayed compared to teams such as Liverpool and United, and does not think they have been given enough credit for what they have achieved over the last three years.

They may not have found as catchy a way of coining it or shouted so much about it – the highest praise Guardiola gives his players usually comes when defending them after a setback, as opposed to Klopp‘s emotional enthusiasm spilling into his post-match interviews – but not a lot gets said about the almighty mentality of a team that claimed a record 100 points while no rivals were pushing them on and then recovered a seven-point gap to pip Liverpool to the title the following year with 98 points.

 

Fortunately for Guardiola, he knows that the mentality monsters do not need to be slain on Sunday to taste defeat.

Back in January when the teams last met in the league, it did not feel at the end of the 90 minutes that the Merseyside team had just suffered the crushing loss that would ultimately deprive them of the title, 100 points and an unbeaten season; instead a ferocious contest fizzed along at a furious pace and City were in front when the final whistle went. They were soundly beaten there the previous year in the league but very nearly turned the game on its head with a late flourish of their own. There was also the second-leg Champions League comeback that was threatened until Leroy Sane’s goal was incorrectly ruled out.

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Ederson of Manchester City

The narrative will be written when more is known about the title race just as the importance of Atalanta away in City’s season will be swiftly downgraded if Ederson returns and/or the team wins on Sunday.

The players don’t have to worry about any of that. If the spectre of Anfield will undoubtedly play a part with memories of the bus and other incidents, all that matters is the immediacy of those 90 minutes on the pitch and they know that they are capable of doing that.

Beating Liverpool may not sink their title challenge – as Kevin De Bruyne and others have noted, there is still a lot of football to be played – but all City have to think about is themselves and what it means for their hopes.

That strategy has worked out pretty well for them in the last two seasons.



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