Head-To-Head: Pep Guardiola vs Jurgen Kloppby Chloe Beresford / 07 September 2017, 15:21Tweet
Second meets fourth in the Premier League on Saturday lunchtime as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City host Liverpool, spearheaded by Jurgen Klopp. After the opening three matches, the Merseyside outfit are ahead of their rivals only by goal difference, both sides having earned seven points so far.
It has been a highly-anticipated clash since Guardiola moved to the Premier League ahead of the 2016/17 campaign, and the forthcoming encounter will be no different. Those fascinating tactical battles ended in a 1-0 win for the Reds back in December, with the return fixture a 1-1 draw.
"It was really hard work," said Klopp after the victory last year. "But it was not that we were expecting something different. Against Man City, you have to work for three points. If you are good enough, you can get them - and we were good enough."
The pair do share a mutual respect though, the German having defended his counterpart in the press after receiving criticism for his first year in England. “We really have to compare the squads,” he told the Independent. “A team without Messi or with Messi? Come on. A team with Iniesta or without Iniesta? A team with Xavi at his best or without? That’s the difference.”
Even a touchline squabble between the pair back in March was diffused with a comical high-five in the end, but the Catalan maestro will undoubtedly be looking to earn his share of the spoils this time around. Of course last season was not the first time the two had met, Klopp having previously been in charge at Borussia Dortmund, whilst Guardiola took the reigns at Bayern.
Their first meeting was the latter’s competitive debut in Germany, with Dortmund coming out the victors in a 3-0 German Super Cup win. The league fixtures between them would end up with both sides enjoying a 3-0 victory, however Dortmund achieved their victory after their adversaries had already wrapped up the Bundesliga title. After that spoils would remain even, the Coaches having accumulated four victories each over two seasons.
Guardiola may have eventually followed Klopp to English shores, but his philosophy of keeping the ball remains the same. Indeed, Manchester City have recorded an impressive average possession rate of at least 55% in all 40 of the 46-year-old boss’ matches in the Premier League so far. The Blues have a largely new backline, but the Coach will still expect full-backs Benjamin Mendy, Danilo and Kyle Walker to get forward whilst providing solid defensive cover, in keeping with his usual style.
City have alternated between a 4-3-3 and a 3-4-1-2 this season, however Liverpool have stuck with a solid 4-3-3. Mohamed Salah will provide lightening pace in Klopp’s setup that focusses on counter-pressing. The Coach places huge importance on his central midfielders to provide balance, meaning that Henderson and Can will need to learn to think about both phases of the game at all times. His trio of attackers behind the central striker must not drop too deep, otherwise the whole system will collapse. While the German boss demands much from those in advanced roles, he also expects his backline to remain tight, organised and aggressive, a vital component in the quest to take the points on Saturday.
3 - Only Spurs (4) have won more PL games that they have been losing at HT than Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp took charge of the Reds. Hopes. pic.twitter.com/Jx3QRFqePe— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 12, 2017
Both will have one eye on Champions League group fixtures that will take place in the middle of the following week, Liverpool hosting Sevilla and Manchester City travelling to Feyenoord. It is far too early to speak of genuine pressure for either boss, but - particularly for Guardiola after he finished 2016/17 empty-handed - winning this Saturday’s match would make a big statement of intent for the rest of the campaign.