Alvaro Morata said Atletico Madrid are closing in on their LaLiga objective as they eye the Champions League.

Atletico are on course to qualify for next season's Champions League following Tuesday's 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo.

Morata scored the fastest goal of the LaLiga season after just 51 seconds at Estadio de Balaidos, where Fran Beltran equalised early in the second half.

Atletico are unbeaten in 15 games and third in the table, three points clear of Sevilla and nine ahead of Villarreal – who both have four matches remaining.

Morata is Atletico's leading goalscorer in LaLiga this term with 11 but the forward is focused on the team's goals, with the Spanish capital club already through to the Champions League quarter-finals prior to the coronavirus-enforced break.

"It doesn't matter [about being top goalscorer], this is a team, you have to keep going and close your goals in the league," Morata told Movistar.

"And then put your head in the Champions League."

Morata added: "It is a very difficult field to play at. They are a team that play very well. The place they are on the table with the football they produce is not understood. 

"The match was even. Fran with that goal has taken us out of the game. The important thing is that since we have returned we are in good spirits."

Atletico have not lost a game since February's 1-0 defeat to city rivals Real Madrid, while they have recorded 15 draws in 35 LaLiga fixtures this season.

"We come with significant tension and pressure, with the need to run to get to the place where we want to be," head coach Diego Simeone replied when asked about the number of draws.

"In every race it is normal that there is a feeling of less than elsewhere. But in the first half there was important moments and the team did what it had to do. Ties exist as there are triumphs, defeat and the rival who also competes."

Jurgen Klopp feels Manchester City's attempts to dethrone his Liverpool side in the Premier League next season could be compromised if they reach the latter stages of the Champions League.

Liverpool stormed to their first domestic league title for 30 years in dominant fashion and their lead with five games remaining stands at an unassailable and mammoth 23 points.

City served notice of their intentions to make it three Premier League crowns in four seasons next time around with a dominant 4-0 victory over the Reds last week, although how their inconsistent 2019-20 will be judged rests upon whether they can add the FA Cup and the Champions League to the already-retailed EFL Cup.

Pep Guardiola's side hold a 2-1 advantage over Real Madrid ahead of the delayed second leg of their last-16 tie, which will take place on August 7 before the winner progresses to an eight-team mini-tournament in Lisbon that is slated to run from August 12-23.

Should City at least go close to getting their hands on the trophy that has eluded them in the modern era – not to mention one they stand to be banned from contesting over the next two years, pending the outcome of an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – Klopp believes recuperation for the 2020-21 campaign will be tricky given the expectedly quick turnaround.

"For pretty much all the teams, it is the same, apart from the teams still in Europe," said Klopp, who knows Liverpool's season ends with the July 26 trip to Newcastle United.

"I don't know how they'll sort that. If City go through to the Champions League final, that's the end of August. It's really tough then.

"Or [Manchester] United and Chelsea and Wolves – they're all still in Europe. That's really tough.

"For us, it's already tough, but we can deal with it. We cannot start until other teams have finished.

"It will be September, I guess, when we start again. This period we will use for a break and pre-season."

Fatigue is a present concern for Klopp in this compressed Premier League schedule.

Brighton and Hove Albion are up next on Wednesday for Liverpool, who travelled overnight to England's south coast after finding a hotel in line with the coronavirus protocols they are required to meet.

"When we heard about the fixtures, it was tough. It's tough for everybody, but when you get yours, you don't look where others play," Klopp said.

"We know we have these kind of fixtures around Boxing Day, where we play 48 hours after the last game, which makes absolutely no sense and never will make sense. I stick to the opinion that's a crime, but three days [to recover] is kind of okay.

"We had to make a decision: would we travel on the matchday? But Brighton is not around the corner, especially the airport is not around the corner, so we would have had to travel a lot."

Klopp added: "We decided to do it like we would do it in the middle of the season. It should be okay, but then we're coming back in the middle of the night and playing a few hours later again against Burnley.

"But Burnley has the same situation; they are in London against West Ham and then play us. It's not easier for them or easier for us. It's just tough for all of us and the logistics are really difficult."

Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players that failure to turn dominance into goals and making mistakes will cost them if repeated against Arsenal and Real Madrid.

City fell to a shock 1-0 defeat at Southampton on Sunday, their ninth loss of the Premier League campaign leaving them 23 points adrift of champions Liverpool.

Che Adams lobbed goalkeeper Ederson after City lost possession and despite 26 shots from the visitors – just six of which were on target – it proved to be the only goal of the game.

Guardiola feels one-off mistakes and his side being unable to take their chances has proven damaging this season.

He insists there is no room for a repeat ahead of key upcoming matches against Arsenal and Madrid in the FA Cup semi-final and Champions League last 16.

"We played really good in terms of what we wanted to do, the commitment with the players after two or three successful seasons is still unbelievable," Guardiola said ahead of Wednesday's home league game against Newcastle United.

"But we are in the point that sometimes we make a mistake that we have to avoid in some games and are punished as a team. And in some games the lack of goals punish us as a team.

"In the semi-final against Arsenal and Madrid this is the reality. We can play the way we played, I don't have doubts this is going to happen and if we are consistent in both boxes, we have a big chance or opportunity to go through.

"But if what happened against Southampton and other games this season like Tottenham home and away or Norwich away, where we dropped points, we will be out and Arsenal and Madrid will go through.

"That is the reality we have to accept. We can be lucky to convert what we produce and defend the less we concede.

"But I don't have any doubts that the team will be there to compete like we have done all season. That is my feeling. We still have incredible targets to fight for."

Guardiola acknowledged a lack of consistency compared to title rivals Liverpool was what really set City back.

He added: "Our consistency has been missing. We've not converted our game plan and in this business you have to win. 

"When you lose nine games you cannot win the Premier League right now – maybe years ago. The champions have to score above 90 points so when you lose nine games you cannot win the league. 

"I was not able to solve the problem that we have had since the beginning. I remember the game against Tottenham at home, they had two shots on target and we shot more than 20 and we drew. 

"It happened in the second game in the league and the last game against Southampton was similar. I was not able to change this dynamic."

Gennaro Gattuso is not yet turning his focus to Barcelona in the Champions League, wanting Napoli to finish the Serie A season strongly.

Napoli recorded a 2-1 win over Roma on Sunday to be sixth in the table, having won four of their past five games.

They will face Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next month, having been held to a 1-1 draw at home in February.

Gattuso, whose side visit Genoa on Wednesday, is in no rush to begin preparing to face the LaLiga giants.

"There is still time," he said after the win over Roma.

"We have almost one month ahead. We must think to end the league at our best, be ready and put some fuel in our legs. It is about our mentality.

"Nowadays I want the team to fit well on the pitch because many players will stay with us next year and we need to build a winning mentality."

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho said he is prepared to break social-distancing rules just so he can hug Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti.

Mourinho's struggling Tottenham will welcome Ancelotti and Everton to London for Monday's Premier League clash.

Spurs boss Mourinho heaped praise on counterpart Ancelotti ahead of the showdown – pitting ninth against 11th in the table – with the Portuguese willing to break coronavirus protocol for his love of the Everton coach.

"I think everyone in football admires Carlo [Ancelotti] as a coach and as a person," Mourinho told reporters.

"If you don't know him as a person at least you know him as a coach. I like him so much as a person that I'm going to say the obvious, which is that he is one of the top managers in the world in the last two decades and of course now.

"I think it's a privilege for the Premier League to have Carlo back. It's a privilege for Everton to have him as their manager or head coach, whatever you want to call him.

"As a person, I've had the privilege of knowing him for a few years, to stay and be with him a few times, at UEFA meetings or other different occasions and I just love Carlo.

"I think he is a fantastic guy so I think I am going to break the rule of one-metre distancing and I'm going to hug him because I like Carlo very much."

Tottenham have only won one of their past nine games across all competitions following Thursday's 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United.

Spurs – Champions League runners-up under former manager Mauricio Pochettino last season – are 12 points adrift of the top four with six matches remaining.

"I believe, but it is also possible that does not happen. And if that does not happen it is not the end of the world. If that does not happen, it is probably the beginning of a new world because things change," Mourinho added.

"Change for you, change for other clubs. The squads they change. The motivations they change, the group dynamic changes. The group that possibly was strong 10 years is ago is not strong anymore. A player that was in the maximum of his motivation is not anymore and vice-versa.

"It is also possible that we don't get into a top-six position. And if that happens of course we have to look at it not smiling, but we have to look at it with optimism and look at it with a professional profile of next season has to be different.

"Because if you analyse Tottenham for example last year, how many matches did Tottenham win away from home? When I arrived I think it was almost a year without an away victory. If it happens [finishing outside of the top six], it happens but we don't want it to happen and we are going to fight for it not to happen."

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard wants his players to embrace the pressure of trying to qualify for the Champions League in their Premier League battle with in-form Manchester United.

Lampard's Chelsea moved back into the top four with a 3-0 win over Watford after United had briefly leapfrogged them following a 5-2 thrashing of Bournemouth earlier on Saturday.

Chelsea are fourth in the table, two points clear of United with five matches remaining in the Premier League, as the top-four race goes down to the wire.

And Lampard told his players to ignore United, who have gone 16 matches without defeat across all competitions, after bouncing back from Wednesday's shock 3-2 loss at West Ham.

"I think every game is going to be pressure now," Lampard told reporters. "West Ham was pressure because we knew we could go third. It's a different kind of pressure but it's still the same in how you focus on the game and job at hand.

"You cannot get too caught up in what everyone does at the moment. We did that tonight. There was no nonsense. The mentality was right. We started brightly and we carried on and got the small details of the game right at both ends of the pitch, which I was happy with."

"It is not a comparison to get too caught up in," Lampard said. "They are a very good team; we know that. The individuals that they have, the squad, the coaches that they have. We can only respect that.

"I watched their game early and with the individual quality when you look across their frontline you see two players on 20 goals and Mason Greenwood doing what he is doing scoring regularly.

"[Bruno] Fernandes and [Paul] Pogba in midfield, the signing of Harry Maguire. They are a really strong outfit. We know that and the fact we are two points ahead we have to be happy about.

"We know it is going to be contested right until the end of the season with the form that they are in. With respect to Manchester United and the teams around us, we have to focus on ourselves and try to keep picking up results. That will be the main importance to us."

Olivier Giroud, Willian and Ross Barkley were on target for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

However, midfielder N'Golo Kante suffered a hamstring injury in the win after he was withdrawn with 12 minutes remaining in London.

Lampard, who insisted Jorginho remains part of his plans despite finding himself out of the line-up, added: "N'Golo has got a small hamstring [injury] which we'll have to scan tomorrow [Sunday] and see how bad it is.

"We hope it's small, that's what I've been told so far. After the scan we'll know but I'm guessing it'll be a problem for [Crystal] Palace on Tuesday."

Lampard also heaped praise on goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has been linked with a return to LaLiga, after the former Athletic Bilbao star produced an agile save to thwart Danny Welbeck.

"I am pleased for him and the back four in front of him as well because I thought we defended pretty well when we needed to," Lampard said. "But the moment when we slipped and they got in; he made a really good save.

"That's what you want from your goalkeeper, you want them to make those saves and stay alert. It will be good for his confidence along with the clean sheet as well."

Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick said Robert Lewandowski can win the Ballon d'Or after taking his season tally to 51 goals after the German champions won the DFB-Pokal title.

Lewandowski scored twice as Bayern eased past Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 on Saturday to retain their DFB-Pokal crown and wrap up a domestic double for the second successive season.

After David Alaba and Serge Gnabry put Bayern ahead, Lewandowski took centre stage in the second half with goals in the 59th and 89th minutes behind closed doors in Berlin.

It continued Lewandowski's red-hot form in 2019-20 after the Poland international star exceeded half a century of goals across all competitions this term.

Lewandowski topped the Bundesliga charts with 34 goals to lead Bayern to an eighth consecutive title, while he has netted 11 in the Champions League as Europe's premier club competition prepares to return next month.

And Flick backed Lewandowski for Ballon d'Or glory post-match, telling reporters: "Fifty-one goals are already very strong. The first goal Lewy scored, the third goal we scored, was already excellent.

"The way he takes the ball down there and the way he locks up. Of course, he's had a bit of luck with that as well. But that's what distinguishes him, that he has this confidence in his quality.

"If I measure for goals now and I see that he has scored 34 goals in the Bundesliga this year, then you can think about how a player from the Bundesliga can become the Ballon d'Or winner. So why not? He has laid all the groundwork with this achievement this year and I would wish him well."

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi won the Ballon d'Or in 2019, edging Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The last Bayern player to receive the individual honour was Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in 1981.

Pep Guardiola has challenged Manchester City to approach the final stages of this season's Champions League with the desire and passion to become kings of Europe. 

City return to action at Southampton on Sunday after a resounding 4-0 victory over the Liverpool side who deposed them as Premier League champions. 

Such is the scale of Liverpool's lead at the top of the table – Thursday's reverse merely trimmed it to 20 points – that the Champions League has long been the competition that looks likely to define City's season, even allowing for the fact they could add the FA Cup to an already retained EFL Cup. 

Having swept the board domestically during his Etihad Stadium tenure, Guardiola is aiming to complete the set by lifting a trophy he has not won since prevailing twice with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. 

City hold a 2-1 first-leg lead over Real Madrid ahead of their August return, which could be moved from Manchester to Lisbon if UEFA rule a game in the United Kingdom to be unworkable due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Guardiola acknowledged a confidence boost from thrashing Liverpool and believes it will be essential to harness a positive mentality against Madrid - lending greater weight to this than the bright tactical tweaks that bested Jurgen Klopp's side. 

"Every game is different from the other one," he said. "I cannot deny that beating Liverpool the way we beat them gives us… football is feelings, is moments. 

"Sometimes your mood is up, sometimes it's down and you face these games. We beat maybe the best team in the world right now. We can do it. 

"Madrid play in a different way, we have to adjust to their qualities. What I want is to arrive in the best conditions possible for these games. 

"These games are not won with tactics and ideas. It is desire, it's is passion. We want to do it. And when one team wants to do it, okay they can be beaten, but it will not be easy for the opponent." 

Lisbon will also host the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of this season's competition as a mini-tournament, with a switch to one-off games from the standard two-legged format. 

That would at least spare City from exiting on away goals again, as was the case in their respective 2017 and 2019 knockout ties against Monaco and Tottenham, which finished 6-6 and 4-4 respectively. 

Guardiola does not want those setbacks, uncertainty over where the Madrid game will be staged or City's ongoing case with UEFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to build a perception of his club being doomed in their quest for Champions League glory. 

"This club is fantastic and we learn to accept our defeats. It is part of football, part of life," he said. "Learn from this, maybe one day we will be lucky 

"I know exactly what happened all the time in the last years in the Champions League. It is a competition where the details make the difference. 

"In the second leg against Madrid we would love to be here, in our city to feel close to our people. But we will go where UEFA decides we have to play. If we have to go to Portugal, we will go." 

CAS is soon set to deliver its verdict on whether City's appeal against a two-year ban from UEFA competitions for Financial Fair Play breaches will be upheld. 

"We are waiting. I have a lot of confidence and trust that we will be allowed to play in the Champions League," Guardiola added. 

"On July 13 we'll know the resolution and hopefully for the club, for all the workers, staff and everyone we can continue to grow up as a club in the next years." 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp thinks Bayern Munich and Manchester City are the clear favourites to win this season's Champions League.

Both teams are in strong positions to progress to the quarter-finals, City having beaten Real Madrid 2-1 while Bayern eased to a 3-0 victory away to Chelsea in the last-16 first legs.

This season's competition is set to resume in August in a mini-tournament format in Lisbon, having been put on hold since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool's defence of the trophy was ended in a 4-2 aggregate defeat to Atletico Madrid, and Klopp expects one of City or Bayern to triumph.

"For me, the two big favourites are Bayern and Man City," he said ahead of Liverpool's Premier League meeting with Aston Villa. "That would be an interesting game.

"Bayern played obviously a very impressive season in Germany. After Hansi Flick took over, it was really impressive what they did. These are the two favourites. I don't know exactly how it could happen - we'll see in the semi-final or whatever.

"The competition will be really interesting because it's completely new. When you see Man City, when you see the squad... everybody needs luck: if you want to win the Champions League, you should have your best line-up ready for the final if that's possible.

"It's not that the other teams have no chance, but I really think these two are the favourites. Massive, massive chance. But, even in the game [Liverpool's 4-0 loss to City on Thursday], which City won deservedly, we should have scored three goals.

"We should have and we would have on a normal day. They have so much quality, but no team in the world is perfect. City are not, Bayern are not, we are not. But you need to be nearly perfect in these moments to win the Champions League, obviously.

"I will watch it, the little tournament, it will be really interesting, but unfortunately, we have nothing really to do with it this year."

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone insisted he was not yet thinking about the Champions League.

A brace from Alvaro Morata and a Koke goal saw Atletico beat Real Mallorca 3-0 on Friday to extend their unbeaten run to 14 matches in all competitions.

Part of that run was eliminating Liverpool in the Champions League last 16 to book their spot in the quarter-finals.

But Simeone, whose side consolidated third spot in the LaLiga table, said the Champions League was not yet a concern, even with the quarter-final draw to be held on July 10.

"I'm not thinking at all about the Champions League at the moment," he told a news conference.

"There's still four very important games left, against teams who are also fighting for places in LaLiga. We're just going to keep competing until the end of the season, like we always do.

"Now we have a slightly bigger time to rest, which is every four days if I'm not mistaken.

"And now we're just going to keep trying to have a little bit of continuity because there's slightly more time to recover. Now the players are starting to get ready and accustomed to quickly getting ready physically again for the next game."

Atletico are in action again on Tuesday, when they visit Celta Vigo.

Raheem Sterling is hoping Manchester City can reach two finals to finish the season.

With Liverpool having sealed the Premier League title, City's chances of adding to their Community Shield and EFL Cup successes this season are in the Champions League and FA Cup.

Pep Guardiola's side will face Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals, while they will carry a 2-1 lead into their Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid.

Sterling, who scored in City's 4-0 thrashing of Liverpool on Thursday, is eyeing two finals to finish the campaign.

"Hopefully, we can finish with an FA Cup final and a Champions League final," the star attacker said, via the club's website.

"We are a team that missed out on the Premier League and we have got to go on and try to do our best as we can in all competitions and that is the FA Cup and the Champions League.

"It is difficult seeing Liverpool take the title from us, but they have been brilliant all year.

"On Thursday, it was just another game, but it was a chance to finish high. In the Premier League we need to win all our games and finish on a high in the FA Cup and the Champions League."

City are away to Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday.

New Bayern Munich winger Leroy Sane has made winning the Champions League his "top priority" in Bavaria.

Sane's long-awaited move from Manchester City to Bayern in his native Germany was confirmed on Friday.

The 24-year-old has signed a five-year contract following a transfer for which, Stats Perform News understands, Bayern have paid an initial €49million (£44.5m), potentially rising to €60m (£54.5m).

Sane was a Bayern target last year before injury ruled him out for much of the 2019-20 campaign, but he is delighted to have finalised the deal, quickly revealing some lofty ambitions.

"FC Bayern is a great club with big goals and these goals suit me as well," Sane said. "I'm looking forward to the new challenge and can't wait to train with the team.

"I know Hansi Flick from the under-21 national team, we had a very good relationship there.

"I want to win as many trophies as possible with FC Bayern, and the Champions League is the top priority."

Sane will not be available for Bayern in this season's Champions League, however, with the Bundesliga champions considered among the favourites ahead of August's eight-team finals.

Meanwhile, Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic thanked City for "trusting and constructive negotiations", and the Premier League club wished Sane well.

Manager Pep Guardiola, formerly of Bayern, said: "We wish Leroy all the best in this new chapter of his career.

"Leroy has been part of one of the most special periods in this club's history and he leaves with the best wishes of everyone here at Manchester City."

City director of football Txiki Begiristain added: "From arriving as a fledgling young talent four years ago, we are proud of the contribution Leroy has made since joining Manchester City.

"He leaves with many friends and fond memories of his time at the Etihad."

Sane scored 39 goals in 135 appearances for City in all competitions, helping Guardiola's side to win the Premier League and EFL Cup in 2017-18 followed by a domestic treble the following season.

He addressed the City fans on his Twitter page, writing: "Thanks so much for the great time and all the support over the past four years.

"It has been a really intense and successful time which I surely won't forget."

The unique competition between the Champions League last eight in August is likely to produce a surprise winner, according to Abel Xavier.

Former Portugal international Xavier is thrilled the country's capital city of Lisbon will host one-off matches from the quarter-final stage onwards as the competition ends with a mini-tournament.

Atalanta and RB Leipzig are among the teams already to have secured their place in the last eight, along with Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.

Lyon and Napoli are hoping to upset Juventus and Barcelona respectively when the last-16 stage is concluded, while Bayern Munich and Manchester City – who lead their own ties – are rated as favourites to win the competition.

But Xavier feels the unique format and environment could benefit the sides who are not used to playing in the final stages.

"Yes, I think from my analysis of what I've seen with surprising results that have been happening in the [domestic] leagues, there is an extra buzz with the top teams because of the fans," Xavier said to Stats Perform News.

"There is a moment where fans give a buzz to the top teams. I think there is going to be a surprise in this last stage. 

"There are teams who are in the group and they can surprise because the teams are more exposed. 

"The teams who aren't used to being in this stage, they are more strong mentally because they play more freely, they play more open and the gap [in quality] will reduce, making games more competitive.

"For that reason, I honestly believe that it is going to be difficult and there will be a surprise in the end."

Xavier hopes the Champions League conclusion will be a fitting reward for those who have worked hardest during the coronavirus pandemic.

The former Liverpool defender added: "It's a completely different environment because of the pandemic situation and everybody readjusts. There is sporting reasons and also economic reasons.

"When you're looking at the leagues and what options they have to play and finish the leagues, there are a few countries that have decided to not continue playing, repeating the health issues.

"They for me are the priority - before football comes health. Of course, everyone must be protected and safe. 

"Portugal is one of the countries that has managed the [COVID-19] crisis very well. I think when you look at the impact, now things are becoming better, I think it's a safe place [to play football]. 

"For that reason, I believe that the opportunity to receive the eight best teams and play this kind of format in Lisbon is also a way to appreciate and say thanks for all those who made these events possible. 

"We are talking about people who work in health, hospitals because we are talking about health matters. If you are not safe you cannot have football either. 

"For that reason, I think Portugal, if things keep going the same way [with COVID-19], the teams will come here and it's going to be a great competition in a positive way.

"It's also going to attract a very positive image in Portugal because when you look back, Portugal was able to organise the big events in the best way possible. 

"For that reason, I think the final stages will be possible and I hope we can have a percentage of the public in the stadium, that would also be an upgrade if things [with COVID-19] stay like this with safety."

Jurgen Klopp says he would never compare himself with Liverpool legends Kenny Dalglish and Bill Shankly, despite winning the Premier League and Champions League.

Liverpool ended their three-decade wait for top-flight silverware last week, a little over a year on from being crowned champions of Europe for a sixth time.

Klopp is only the third manager in the club's history to win both trophies in their various guises, alongside Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan, with Dalglish and Shankly unable to achieve the feat.

However, ex-Borussia Dortmund boss Klopp - who also won the Club World Cup in December - insists he is not interested in comparisons with two of the club's all-time greats.

"I'm rather surprised to be honest," Klopp told Sky Sports. "The reasons why Kenny [didn't win] I know, but with Bill I don't know exactly why he couldn't win it.

"But it is not important. I would never compare myself with them. Nobody should do that actually. It was different times, building a club and carrying a club.

"It's a big achievement, I know that. I know how we did it, pretty much because of all the hard work people put in at Melwood and the passion that people showed for this club.

"It's never easy, it was not easy this time but it makes it much more valuable, worthy and emotional."

Like Klopp, Jordan Henderson has also written his name in Anfield folklore by joining Emlyn Hughes, Phil Thompson and Graeme Souness in captaining Liverpool to both major honours.

Henderson succeeded Steven Gerrard as skipper in 2015 and has proved his critics wrong with his performances over the past couple of seasons, much to Klopp's delight.

"I couldn't be more happy for him to be honest," the German said.

"If we speak about people carrying expectation around with them, Hendo could and should probably write a book about it and how he deals with that because it was massive when I came in here.

"I felt it pretty early, that it is really difficult to do his job. How people saw him as a player... thank God we all knew what kind of player he really is and together we could make that obvious.

"Now he is probably in the best place ever, in a good shape of course. Not only at the moment but this is of course the big one.

"I can't wait for him to be sitting in a TV studio two or three years after his career has finished, talking about Trent Alexander-Arnold and the other guys and telling them what is right and wrong!

"That will be good fun for sure."

Premier League champions Liverpool will emerge at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday to a guard of honour from previous title-holders Manchester City.

It will be the latest episode in the captivating rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

We run the rule over two men whose tactical approaches and high levels of achievement have – and it does not feel too grandiose to suggest this – changed football in the 21st century, as well as one another.

THE BUNDESLIGA YEARS

Guardiola's arrival to take the reins of a treble-winning Bayern for 2013-14 came shortly after their rivalry with Klopp's Dortmund reached its peak.

Arjen Robben's 89th-minute winner saw Bayern down BVB 2-1 in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley – a game played out against a backdrop of Dortmund's star playmaker Mario Gotze agreeing terms to move to Bavaria.

In hindsight, Klopp's gegenpressing machine – winners of back-to-back Bundesliga crowns in 2010-11 and 2011-12 – were coming off the top of their curve, having finished 25 points behind a relentless Bayern domestically that season.

The decline continued over the next two seasons. Dortmund were remarkably in relegation trouble halfway through 2014-15, before a post-Christmas recovery preceded Klopp's emotional farewell.

Nevertheless, there was still time for telling blows to be landed. Guardiola's first competitive game in charge saw Bayern beaten 4-2 in the 2013 DFL-Supercup at a delirious Signal Iduna Park.

Stung by that loss, Guardiola sprung a notable surprise in the first league encounter between the sides that November, where he broke Dortmund's rabid press by playing Javi Martinez as an attacking midfielder and repeatedly targeting the rangy Spain international with long balls.

The high priest of tiki-taka (a label Guardiola famously loathes) had presided over "more long balls than in the last three years combined" from a Bayern team, according to Klopp, who bristled after Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller added to Gotze's inevitable second-half opener in a 3-0 win.

A depleted Munich were similarly reactive when they won the DFB-Pokal final 2-0 in extra-time, even if flooding midfield numbers was a more recognisably Guardiola tactic.

Diverting from his dizzying 4-3-3 of swirling triangles has remained something the Catalan tactician has frequently done across his meetings with Klopp, and not always with the success he enjoyed in Germany.

HOLLOW VICTORIES AND THE PHONEY WAR

Klopp ended his homeland head-to-head against Guardiola with three victories, making it back-to-back Supercup triumphs in 2014, having claimed a 3-0 Bundesliga result at Allianz Arena earlier that year – the authority of which was dimmed by the fact Bayern had already cantered to the title.

Guardiola had four victories to his name, with one draw ultimately falling in Dortmund's favour as Bayern failed with all four of their penalty attempts in a 2015 DFB-Pokal semi-final shoot-out.

However, Klopp was denied a glorious farewell as his team lost in the final to Wolfsburg and the fact Robert Lewandowski had followed Gotze to Munich by this point underlined a deck stacked against him.

Liverpool came calling for Klopp in October 2015 and he helmed helter-skelter runs to the EFL Cup and Europa League finals. Manchester City and Sevilla prevailed respectively.

That was Manuel Pellegrini's final honour as City boss as he made way for Guardiola, who collected a third successive Bundesliga title in 2015-16. Thomas Tuchel's Dortmund finished closer in terms of position and points (second, 10 behind) than Klopp's version had managed when in direct competition.

With the stage presumably set for renewed hostilities between Guardiola and incoming Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, the similarly newly installed Antonio Conte did not read the script as Chelsea romped to 2016-17 Premier League glory.

Klopp got the better of his head-to-heads with City as a Georginio Wijnaldum goal sealed a 1-0 New Year's Eve win at Anfield before Sergio Aguero rescued a point for the hosts in the return game.

Guardiola laid it on thick after that 1-1 draw, declaring it to be "one of the most special days of my life".

"He is Spanish. They are a little bit more emotional than the Germans," Klopp chuckled in response.

TON-UP BUT NOT INVINCIBLE AND THE ROAD TO KIEV

Liverpool beat City three times in 2017-18, when most other teams could barely lay a glove on Guardiola's record-breaking side.

But the game where City prevailed, an unusual 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium where Liverpool subsided meekly after Sadio Mane's red card for clattering Ederson with a high boot, arguably had the biggest influence on the campaign.

When that game was 11 v 11, Guardiola's back three was horribly exposed. Aguero's opener arrived against the run of play, with an unusually wasteful Mohamed Salah having tormented Nicolas Otamendi.

City never used 3-5-2 in the league again that season, reverting to a swashbuckling 4-3-3 that churned out 19 consecutive wins and made the second half of the schedule a virtual procession.

Liverpool halted their designs on invincibility however, claiming a raucous 4-3 Anfield win in January. Klopp hailed "pressing from another planet" by his front three as Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah were all on target in a euphoric nine-minute spell after half-time.

Guardiola had again seen a swift avalanche of goals bring the roof in during a big match and his tweak to a 4-4-2 diamond, eyeing avenues around those Liverpool pressing lanes, backfired in that season's Champions League quarter-final.

A 3-0 first-leg loss at Anfield, with all the goals arriving during the first half, left City with a mountain to climb and a death-or-glory approach in the return fixture – deploying a formation probably best described as 3-CHARGE!!! – eventually ran out of steam in a 2-1 loss.

But it was Liverpool who came up short in the Kiev final on Loris Karius' nightmare outing against Real Madrid, while City sauntered to a 100-point haul as dominant Premier League champions. Sitting 25 points back in fourth, the Reds had a considerable gap to bridge.

CHASING PERFECTION

Despite that deficit, their efforts in going blow-for-blow with City over 90-minute periods left the impression Liverpool were the best placed of the pretenders to overthrow the champions.

Both teams reconvened on Merseyside undefeated in October 2018 and remained that way as the free-flowing nature of recent meetings gave way to a cagey 0-0 draw.

Reprising the theme of those early Klassiker meetings, Guardiola took his foot off the throttle as City played at a controlled tempo – an approach that would have ended the club's Anfield hoodoo but for Riyad Mahrez's ballooned late penalty.

Fire and brimstone returned the following January, though, with a wobbling City recovering their poise and avoiding a 10-point deficit at the top. Aguero and Leroy Sane were on target either side of Firmino in a bravura display, where Aymeric Laporte took on the unfamiliar role of left-back to stifle Salah.

That was Liverpool's only loss of the season as they finished on 97 points, agonisingly one shy of City. However, their subsequent Champions League final win over Tottenham improbably propelled them further along.

Just as Guardiola has tempered some of his more cavalier tendencies when faced with Klopp, the challenge of an unrelenting City also forced the Liverpool boss into subtle and decisive tweaks.

In bringing in Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, he spent big for what many see as the finest goalkeeper and centre-back on the planet. Their very presence means risk can be reduced.

Heavy metal football has given way to a steady pulsing beat that never wavers. In the city of Merseybeat, Klopp has gone electro.

Amid their steamrollering of the opposition this season, Liverpool have 19 wins by a solitary goal in all competitions. They are frighteningly and ruthlessly clinical. A profligate City trail in their wake, although Guardiola has used this relative freedom from pressure to thumb intriguingly through his tactical playbook in 2020.

Both men have inspired the other to reach beyond their comfort zones and the result is the two best teams in world football. With Klopp contracted to Liverpool until 2024 and Guardiola talking up an extended stay, the thought occurs that they are each other's motivation for sticking around. There is nowhere better to measure their greatness than against one another.

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