EPL

Pep Guardiola puts Jurgen Klopp on pedestal as ‘by far’ his biggest career rival

By Sports Desk November 24, 2023

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has called Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp the biggest managerial adversary of his career.

The Reds visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday lunchtime for the latest instalment of a classic rivalry that has so often gone a long way to deciding the destination of the Premier League title.

City go into the game one point ahead of Klopp’s side, who look their most realistic title challengers, even if Guardiola says Arsenal and Tottenham are also in the race.

Guardiola has had some battles over the years, notably with Jose Mourinho, but says Klopp has made him a better manager.

Asked if the German was his biggest rival, he said: “Yes, by far. Because we have faced each other a thousand million times.

“Absolutely, he made me better, he helped me reflect on a lot of things with the problems they have created for us, it’s part of when you are many years in this business, him and his teams, here and Dortmund have always been big rivals, good games for both, both teams have a positive approach to the games and always attractive.

“I’m pretty sure he made me a better manager through his teams, and of course, the way we play for them is good with the transitions, they have a lot of space in behind, they are fantastic with the runs, they are a fantastic team, fantastic legs, a top side, no doubt.”

After a poor season last year, where they missed out on Champions League qualification, Klopp’s side look back to their best and are clear challengers for the title.

“Absolutely,” Guardiola said. “Arsenal will be too, I see them as so, so solid. Spurs even, the two defeats they had lately, the feeling when I see the way they are playing and with one game a week, I think they will be there.

“Chelsea start to recover and have one game a week. I think the four or five contenders are there. I don’t know if Newcastle will join, maybe United will join us but many things can happen.”

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    A Sven Botman own goal set them on their way before goals from Kai Havertz, Bukayo Saka and Jakub Kiwior rounded off another fine display from Mikel Arteta’s men, although the returning Joe Willock’s late header ruined another clean sheet.

    The win, coming on the back of a galling late loss in their Champions League last-16 clash with Porto on Wednesday, moves them to within two points of leaders Liverpool and just a point shy of Manchester City in second place.

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    After a light show and pre-match tifo, Arsenal set the pace from the off with Declan Rice, playing in a higher role in midfield with Jorginho restored to the side, stinging the palms of Loris Karius.

    They would hit the front through another set-piece, but this time in fortuitous circumstances as Karius made a great save from Gabriel Magalhaes’ powerful header, only for Tino Livramento to turn the ball home off the prone Botman in his attempts to clear off the line.

    The lead was doubled soon afterwards, this time from a free-flowing move as Jorginho – in a man-of-the-match display – picked out an inch-perfect pass to Gabriel Martinelli, who crossed for Havertz to turn home unmarked from six yards out.

    Arsenal should have struck again moments later as Martin Odegaard pressed and won the ball off Fabian Schar inside the Newcastle box, only for his pass into Havertz to be cleared behind for a corner.

    Still Arsenal pressed and Newcastle strained, Saka coming close only for Karius to make another smart stop as the hosts went in comfortably ahead at the break.

    Havertz should have grabbed his second of the night having been slipped in by Martinelli early in the second half, but he rolled his finish wide of the post.

    Newcastle had failed to have a shot on target in the first half of a Premier League game for the first time in nearly a decade.

    Anthony Gordon finally tested David Raya in the 49th minute before Alekander Isak fired just over the bar on another rare foray forward for the visitors.

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