Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola called on his side to match the intensity of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool ahead of Saturday’s keenly anticipated Premier League clash at Anfield.
Second-place Liverpool welcome a City side one point and one place behind them in the title race, with both clubs heading into the contest buoyed by three consecutive wins.
Nevertheless, Liverpool’s swashbuckling attacking play could present problems for a City defence which remains under scrutiny, despite clean sheets in recent victories over Watford and Hull City.
Guardiola’s backline crumpled when Tottenham, Chelsea and Leicester City unleashed the type of pacey attack that Klopp has made his calling card at Liverpool and, when the two heavyweight coaches previously faced off, at Borussia Dortmund.
Ex-Bayern Munich boss Guardiola was in the stands as Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners over Stoke City on Tuesday and he told a pre-match news conference: “They are contenders for the title, definitely. I went to the game against Stoke and it was a good game.
“I was lucky enough to play against Jurgen Klopp [in Germany], we know each other well.
“I saw Liverpool many times and I was off [on Tuesday], my family weren’t here – thank you Liverpool for the tickets – so I went to the game.
“I don’t know what will happen but I know we have to equal their intensity – [the atmosphere at] Anfield will play a big role.”
Guardiola could call upon John Stones despite the former Everton centre-back limping off during the first half at Hull on Boxing Day, having taken a blow to the knee, although captain Vincent Kompany (knee) and Leroy Sane (knock) remain sidelined.
Liverpool and City facing off arguably represents an ideal scenario for leaders Chelsea, who are six points clear at the summit thanks to a 12-match winning streak.
Nevertheless, Guardiola believes there are still numerous contenders for the top-flight crown, with Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United rounding out a heavyweight top six.
“There are six teams fighting for the title and especially for the next Champions League qualification,” he said.
“The other contenders are really tough teams. It will be a good fight until the end of the season.”
Guardiola added he was “happy” to have Sergio Aguero back from a four-match ban, with City’s top scorer ready to bolster their bid for a first win at Anfield since 2003.
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