Jurgen Klopp dismissed the idea of a two-horse race for the Premier League, insisting Liverpool and Manchester City have no divine right to compete for the title because of previous success.
The champions of the previous three seasons meet at the Etihad Stadium on Super Sunday – live on Sky Sports Premier League – as Liverpool’s title defence sees them travel to the home of the side chiefly tasked with removing their crown.
While it may be too soon to have true significance on the destination of the Premier League trophy, the fixture has accrued title-decider status in light of Liverpool and City’s recent dominance, but Klopp refused to accept Pep Guardiola’s side were the only obstacle standing in the way of the Reds retaining their title.
Asked if it was more of a two-horse Premier League title race this season, Klopp told Soccer Saturday: “Yes, it always was. Until a specific point, it was last year for a very long time at least a three-horse race, that’s clear. I’m not surprised about that.
“Nothing is guaranteed, could anybody have imagined that the virus could stop the whole world in pretty much a week and that it would do that for eight or nine months? Football is no different, you can take nothing for granted.
“I don’t think about us one of two teams, I think about as a team that has to do a lot of things right to be successful, and then we will see where it leads up to.
“I’m not interested what people think about us in the sense if we are one of the top two or the only one, or one of three or four, that’s not important when you prepare a game. That’s the job I have to do, I have to prepare my team for football games and the next one is a tough one.
“If we look back at the previous two years, they were impressive for both teams. City won one [Premier League] and we won. We won the Champions League on top of that, City won the FA Cup.
“That doesn’t mean this year we have the ticket to do it again, everybody has a chance. That’s why I said we don’t defend anything, we attack the next one, with all we have, whatever that means in a specific moment.”
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Massive influence on small details
Since Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad at the start of the 2016/17 season there hasn’t been a single away victory in the fixture in the Premier League, while only one of the last 10 meeting has seen the visiting side leave with three points.
With Manchester City unbeaten in eight matches, Liverpool will have to summon some performance to buck the trend of away-day blues in this fixture, but Klopp is relishing the challenge.
“In all circumstances, this is always the toughest game,” he added. “Playing against Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola, is a proper challenge, a massive task.
“I know what people are saying about them at the moment, but this is a sensational football team. That’s why it’s a very important game, a very difficult a challenging game, but an important one.
“I enjoy preparing for these games because it asks for pretty much everything, you have to think about all the little details and then, in the end, still give the boys the feeling they can feel completely free in different moments.
“We have to tell them what to do, what they should show in different situations, how brave they have to be – all these kind of things.
“The Etihad is a good stadium, the dressing room is fine, so there is no reason for not delivering the best performance. It’s the most difficult game of the year, that’s how it is, because they are so difficult to play against.
“It’s normal that you can lose from time to time, that can absolutely happen. It’s just a game that is on a high level, concentration level, intensity level, and so that means little mistakes can decide the game.
“When we lost at Manchester City, the ball was not in by 11mm, so really small details can decide these games. So we should try to make sure we have a massive influence on these details.”
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Football’s duty is to entertain
Liverpool and Manchester City bring the curtain down on the first weekend of Premier League football fall inside the new national coronavirus lockdown.
Klopp has often advocated that there is more to life than football, but, in such times of strife and hardship, he was adamant the game should go on fulfilling its important role in society.
“The role of football is always part of entertainment, though I’m not sure that is the right word,” he said.
“We are there for the people, even in normal times, when they want to have some time off and be involved in something different to their daily life. That, now, is even more important. If we can do it in a safe way, its 100 per cent that we play on.
“It’s for people who can watch us, see us and be involved like they were before. Liverpool has 100 million fans all over the world and only 65,000 of them could go to the stadium. That’s always the same, but now it’s exactly the same for the other 65,000 and it means we have the same importance for them as before.
“I didn’t need a virus to know there are more important things in life, but it is an important part. In this job we do what we always have to do: give the people something to think about, to be involved in, to love, to hate, whatever. That’s why I think it’s important we play on.”
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