Jürgen Klopp speaks about how to outdo Pep Guardiola and all things Liverpool v Manchester City.
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Liverpool against Manchester City is not just a UEFA Champions League quarter-final match-up between two Premier League rivals, it is the latest tussle involving coaches Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.
Although Guardiola has generally swept all before him in his coaching career, it has been a different story when facing Klopp. They have met nine times, first with Klopp's Borussia Dortmund against Guardiola's Bayern München then as Liverpool and City adversaries. Klopp has won five and lost only once, a 5-0 league defeat in Manchester in September that was avenged 4-3 in January.
They meet again in the first leg at Anfield on Wednesday and Klopp spoke to UEFA.com about why neither he nor his opposite number wanted to meet in the last eight, how he has masterminded past successes against Guardiola's sides, his bond with the Liverpool fans and how the team have contributed to Mohamed Salah's incredible goalscoring form.
On drawing Manchester City ...
I thought: "Of course it had to be them" for a few reasons. I never really think about draws even though I'm always asked which opponents I would like to face. But I actually don't care a jot.
There are only two teams I wouldn't have wished to play against ideally. Man. City, because in my opinion a cool thing about the Champions League is getting the chance to play in another country. The other team is Sevilla, since we already played there.
I saw Pep Guardiola's reaction and he wasn't happy either. We know each other very well. It doesn't matter who you get when you're there at the draw. It might have a big influence on how you prepare but it doesn't matter during the draw. So I'm fine with it.
On the tie itself ...
I would say that of all the match-ups, and each one is great in its own right, if I were a neutral spectator I would choose this game.
For those who have seen our two clashes in the Premier League this year, and in the last few years as well since Pep arrived and, to be honest, also before his era, they know that it's always an exciting match. And that's the way football should be.
The main focus probably won't be on the result, instead it'll be about doing more things right than the opponents, because you can't simply defend against Man. City and hope that they won't score on the day. They're just too good.
On how to beat City ...
The way we attack the opponent, the way we defend high is unpleasant [for our opponents]. If we do that well they will have some difficulty coping with it.
I think there will be plenty of coaches all over the world watching these games in order to find a solution for how to play well defensively, and by doing that also giving yourself the chance to become dangerous on the attack against the best teams like Barcelona and Man. City. It will be very exciting. There's no guarantee this will work. In the end it's the lads on the pitch who will decide the game.
On Pep Guardiola ...
His teams are always excellently positioned. He always has great teams which make excellent decisions. At Barcelona it was Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Lionel Messi and so on, just to mention the creative players from his time there.
At Bayern he had fantastic players who made a lot of great decisions. Now, with Gündogan, Silva, Agüero, Sané, Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, they're extraordinary.
Positioning is important but this is not witchcraft. It is not unusual just because the wing-backs come inside but when the players are in position they move every millisecond in order to be available. And when they are, that's when the individual quality of the player becomes important.
So they're already well positioned on the pitch, they know what's going on around them, they are very well orientated and they can pass the ball into the next area. That's what makes them extraordinary. Whenever they can't pass they use their pace in order to progress further up and then the space on the wing is free.
On his 'gegenpressing' compared to Guardiola's pressing style ...
There's no big difference, actually. It's just that Pep has always had better teams than me. You can see that now with Manchester City – they have a lot more points [in the Premier League] than we do. However, that difference has never been as small as it is now. When we coached at Bayern and Dortmund respectively, that difference was really big.
And when he was coaching Barcelona I was at Mainz, so that was a completely different situation. They've got a lot more ball possession than I ever had in my coaching career. They were always world-class teams and we always had to improve a little bit. When you have more ball possession, you don't need to worry too much about what you need to do when your opponents have the ball.
On the Anfield atmosphere ...
It's incredibly important and I'm also happy to be there. We've already enjoyed some of those magical European nights and that's simply terrific. And this time it'll be fantastic again. However, just that alone won't help.
On his bond with Liverpool fans ...
I'm aware that the overall feeling is positive towards me but I have no idea what exactly the fans think of me. I'm not too worried about that, actually. The point here is that I'm trying to do my best so we can be successful, just as everyone else does.
I'm not here by chance – coming here was a conscious decision. I was aware of the club's situation and the unique nature of the fans, and everything was very familiar to me.
Very few things in my life have come trouble-free, but I'm here today despite all that. And Liverpool FC's history is very similar. It's been a tough one, but also a very successful one. Now we're going through a long dry spell and I feel somehow responsible for that.
On Mo Salah's form ...
I think Mo has made strides forward within this team through the way in which the team play and the way the other lads interact with him on the pitch: the way they look to him as such an important player and the way everyone unselfishly tries to play him in. The defensive work is done for him, that way he regularly gets into goalscoring positions.
With some of his goals he had to beat five men so I can't say he profited a lot from what the others did, but with a lot of his other goals he did profit from it. And I believe this interaction has allowed him to take the next step so everything's gone well so far.
On what he loves about football ...
Everything, I would say. Everything about the game of football, not everything about the business of football. But the game: it's 11 mates making each other better, working together, fighting for each other, playing – when you're good – wonderful pieces of football.
All the challenges, all the shots, all the crosses, all the sliding tackles, all that stuff about the game, I love.