Liverpool (AFP) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola promised to stick by his principles and attack Liverpool in their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday, despite admitting he is playing into his opponents’ hands.
Liverpool are the only side to beat runaway leaders City in the Premier League this season in a 4-3 thriller at Anfield in January.
The hosts’ fearsome front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were all on target that day as part of their combined tally of 75 goals this season.
However, Guardiola’s bold brand of attacking football has been accompanied by success everywhere he has gone in a stellar coaching career from Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now at City.
And he believes that is the best way for City to reach just their second ever Champions League semi-final, but the eighth in his nine seasons as a top-flight coach.
“I know the way we play is perfect for Liverpool because they are a team that attack the space unlike any other team in the world, especially Mane, Salah, Firmino, they are so good,” said Guardiola on Tuesday.
“But I feel the best way to win is the way we try to do since we were here.”
No opposing manager has beaten Guardiola more times than Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. In 12 previous meetings, Klopp has six wins to Guardiola’s five.
Klopp was keen to play down the significance of that record, but Guardiola hailed their shared spirit to entertain.
“Both teams try to play. We are the teams that scored the most goals in Premier League this season by far,” added Guardiola.
“I think Jurgen Klopp teams are honest teams that respect what football means. They try to attack and of course we are going to try to (do the same). I’m sure tomorrow is going to be a good game.”
City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne described the sides’ January meeting as a “crazy game” that was “beautiful for the neutral”.
– ‘We can beat the best’ –
And Klopp called on his Liverpool team to believe they can recreate those heroics despite facing a team the German labelled as the best in Europe at the moment.
“I like the difficult jobs, that is the most interesting thing for a manager,” said Klopp.
“It’s really difficult, but I think we can beat the best. But only if we work really hard and smart.”
While City currently have the upper hand domestically, five-time European champions Liverpool have far more pedigree in continental competition.
However, the Reds haven’t reached the Champions League last four for a decade and Klopp wants modern-day memories created at Anfield.
“This club is already so full of history and we have to write our own history,” said Klopp when quizzed whether he was seeking inspiration from Liverpool’s glory days in Europe.
“People meet me in the street and they can tell me each goal Liverpool who scored 37 years ago in the 56th minute… we need to be proud of our history but we need to create our own history.”
Both sides have been struck by injury problems as City’s top scorer Sergio Aguero hasn’t travelled with the rest of Guardiola’s squad due to a knee problem that has kept the Argentine sidelined for the past month.
Liverpool centre-back Joel Matip will miss the rest of the season with a thigh injury, while Adam Lallana will miss both legs against City due to a hamstring injury suffered in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.
German midfielder Emre Can missed that match and remains a doubt with a back injury.