Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says Manchester City are the best team in the world ahead of his Premier League leaders’ top-of-the-table clash at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.
Klopp’s unbeaten side go into the meeting with a seven-point lead over City, who have slipped to third place after a pair of shock defeats, but is keen to play down the hype surrounding his side and put the focus on Pep Guardiola’s pre-season title favourites.
“A very difficult one, one of the most difficult games you can play in the modern football world,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“We have to be prepared as good as possible, we have to be brave, we have to be full of desire, angry … but with the knowledge the opponent is, for me, still the best team in the world.”
Klopp and Guardiola have both talked up the strength of their opposition ahead of the clash, with the City boss returning the compliment by hailing Liverpool as the world’s top team.
Liverpool have dropped just six points this season, and go into the match on a nine-match winning streak in the league.
The Reds have won three of their past four meetings with City but their last league trip to the Etihad ended in a 5-0 defeat in September 2017.
Guardiola has already labelled the match a must-not-lose game for his team, stating the title race would be finished should City slip 10 points adrift.
Klopp expects the situation to fire up City, saying: “If we would be 10 points behind, would the first thing I say be, ‘We’ll catch them’? Of course not — it’s difficult with the qualities all the teams have.
“But it’s January 3. It’s a very, very important game for both teams, obviously … They will be ready and we have to make sure we are ready.”
Klopp said his team’s run to last season’s Champions League final, which they lost to Real Madrid, was the moment a switch flicked.
“I think we got rid, finally, of the backpack when we reached the Champions League final,” he said.
“That was the moment when we did something really special. Since then it feels different.”
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits by Michael Corry)