Going back to their days at Barcelona and Real Madrid and continuing during their time on the blue and red soccer sides of Manchester, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and his longtime rival Jose Mourinho loved taking subtle shots at each other in the press.
Now, Mourinho is plying his trade over 1,000 miles away from his “frienemy” at Roma in Italy. That leaves Guardiola without his favorite target to take digs at. Luckily for the City skipper, he’s found a new bear to poke in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side.
Manchester City and Liverpool is the best rivalry in the Premier League in the last few seasons
Since Pep Guardiola showed up at the Etihad Stadium in 2016, Manchester City has battled with Chelsea, been frustrated by Tottenham, and, as always, continued their blood feud with Manchester United.
However, the best chess match in the EPL the last six seasons has been between Guardiola and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.
Since the 16-17 season, Man City has racked up 506 Premier League Points, and Liverpool is second during that time with 470. In the last five seasons, these are also the only two teams to win a Premier League title.
Guardiola has eight major trophies to Klopp’s two during their respective tenures. However, Liverpool has the Champions League trophy that City is still searching for.
Heading into the home stretch of the 2021-22 European football season, Guardiola and City are the favorites to take home the two biggest trophies in the game. City has a relatively comfortable lead at the top of the Premier League. With just over a dozen matches left to play, Liverpool is the only team in a position to catch them. The Reds are just nine points back with a game in hand and an April 9 head-to-head match at the Etihad looming.
The even bigger matchup on the horizon could be on the European stage. Guardiola’s side cruised in the first leg of the UCL Round of 16 matchup, crushing Portugal’s Sporting 5-0. Klopp’s crew looks primed to move on, too, after beating Inter Milan 2-0 at the San Siro in Italy.
As the possibility of a Champions League showdown between the rivals grows, Guardiola took the opportunity to compliment Liverpool while also taking a little shot.
Guardiola says Liverpool is his biggest concern in UEFA Champion’s League
After Manchester City’s 5-0 demolition of Sporting in Lisbon, the European press tried to goad Pep Guardiola into admitting that both the Premier League and Champions League trophies are his for the taking this year.
Guardiola didn’t take the bait. He gave credit to other teams, including rival Liverpool. However, he did take the opportunity to engage in a little sly name-calling.
When asked if any club on the continent can beat City with the current form they’re in, Guardiola responded, per the Daily Mail:
Liverpool. They are six points behind us. Liverpool are the bigger rivals in the past seasons, always there. They are a pain in the a** all the time. They are a fantastic team in Europe.Pep Guardiola on Liverpool
Guardiola’s sentiment is purely complimentary. It’s also true that Liverpool is and has been the biggest thorn in his side the last few seasons.
However, taking into account Guardiola’s history of engaging in psychological warfare in the press, especially against Jose Mourinho back in the day, it’s hard not to read into the manager’s characterization of Klopp’s side as a “pain in the a**” as a bit of a subtle dig as well.
It feels a bit like when another famous Manchester manager dubbed his in-town rivals “noisy neighbors.”
Can any team beat Manchester City in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League?
As any NFL fan who watched the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots or the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals play three times this season, there’s always a chance the better team will lose when rivals that know each other well face-off.
In addition to Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United are also both alive in the UCL Round of 16. Although Manchester City handled both these sides in Premier League play, a Champions League matchup is a different beast, as City well knows after the team’s UCL Finals loss to Chelsea last year.
Outside of EPL rivals, a few other teams can beat City in the tournament.
This includes Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, and Real Madrid. PSG and Real Madrid are playing this round, as are United and Atletico, which will thin the field somewhat.
If City can avoid or eliminate the Premier League threats, the biggest challenger would likely be PSG. The squad features some of the biggest stars in the world, including Pep Guardiola’s former Barcelona protégé Lionel Messi and possibly the best player in the world right now, Kylian Mbappe.
If the UCL Final pits Man City against PSG, it will surely be one of the most anticipated finals in recent history.
But it might also be a “pain in the a**” for Guardiola and company.