Since landing in Manchester in the summer of 2016, Pep Guardiola always speaks with enormous respect General Winter as one of the distinguishing features of old English football. In December and January the rigors of British weather infuence football a unique picture. The thermometers collapse, the wind conspires against precision, the heavy rain turns the lawn into a skating rink and if snow also appears the apocalyptic landscape augurs that everything can happen. To make matters worse, the calendar is tightened in such a way that it punishes the physicist and the players' heads. For this Thursday, the meteorologists have predicted temperatures below zero at nine o'clock at night, starting time at the Etihad Stadium of Manchester City-Liverpool (Movistar Champions League), which may be the hottest game in the Premier.
In January of last season came the first of the two league losses of a City that seemed unbeatable until he visited Anfield: 4-3 in an exciting game. The Citizens, that in September they had massacred by 5-0 to those of Klopp, they finished the course celebrating the title, breaking records with excellent football and adding 100 points. Liverpool finished fourth to 25 points behind the champion. But in the Champions League it was another story: Guardiola's team succumbed in the quarterfinals before a set net who exercised one in feverish pressure and took the two meetings. Jürgen Klopp thus strengthened his status as a skilled expert in neutralizing the offensive potential of Guardiola's teams. In the direct duels between the two coaches, which date back to their Bundesliga matches, the German coach has celebrated eight wins since his Borussia Dortmund defeated Bayern Munich in the 2013 German Super Cup. Guardiola's men were victorious five times. , and only two duels ended in a draw, the last without goals, last October.
The background seems to weigh in a tactical duel between two strategists whose staging includes large doses of audacity, good taste and competitive character committed to the show. Two bets that differ in multiple concepts of tempo, rhythm and elaboration. And two technicians of nonnegotiable convictions who train with a passionate discourse two splendid staff. Guardiola recognizes that right now "Liverpool may be the most fit team in the world." After the first half of the Premier League, Klopp's team reached Etihad after nine consecutive victories and with a seven-point advantage over City, which is third, and six to Tottenham, second.
The emergence of Liverpool as a candidate for the title also goes through the three defeats that City has suffered this year, all in December: against Chelsea and against two smaller rivals such as Crystal Palace and Leicester. In those last two matches he could not count on Fernandinho, already recovered from a muscle injury. The Brazilian midfielder is perhaps the only footballer who has no natural turnover in the squad. Their absences tend to diminish the defensive balance of a team designed to attack with enveloping maneuvers creating superiorities in the midfield and accelerating the circulation of the ball. Beyond that, the technical staff of the City does not consider that there is a problem of defensive structural fragility despite the five goals conceded in the last two defeats. With the doubt of De Bruyne, the City faces the duel with the urgency to reduce distances in a direct confrontation.
"The problem is that the other team is fantastic," says Guardiola. The best Liverpool of the last decades has grown in solidity, maintaining its goal to zero in 12 league matches. Unique undefeated in the Premier, has four days as a leader. Although it presents tactical novelties and remarkable new faces with respect to the last course, its ability to overwhelm the opponent with aggressive forward pressure remains its preferred sign of identity. Also the vertiginous transitions of his complementary attacking trio: between Salah, Mané and Firmino add 28 of the 48 points scored by those of Klopp, the man who manages the threads of a real cooperative goal.