THE epic nature of the rivalry between Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City nearly called for a Champions League final last May.
When they last met in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley in April, both managers were fully expecting a final tango in Paris to cap off another season of this fascinating duopoly.
Instead, they meet again today in the more low-key environment of a Community Shield at Leicester’s King Power Stadium, thanks to Real Madrid’s wrecking ball.
But while the venue has been moved due to tomorrow’s Women’s EURO final at Wembley and the game is rightly overshadowed by the progress of the England Lionesses, Liverpool v City is never a game to sniff at.
The frenetic pace and incredible quality of their two league games last season – both of which ended in 2-2 draws – were off the scales.
Klopp and Guardiola, the two longest-serving Premier League bosses, have taken English club football to new heights over the past six seasons.
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Even the Community Shield – a match we usually cheer as if it were a major trophy only to forget a week later who even won the thing – has greater traction because it’s contested by Liverpool and City.
Few expect anything but another two-horse race for the title (runners-up Liverpool finished last season 18 points clear of third-placed Chelsea).
Real hostilities will not resume until their league meeting at Anfield on October 15 but there is much talk today about psychological benefits and building momentum.
And there’s additional intrigue following the summer arrivals of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez.
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Not just because these two new forwards are expensive, high-profile imports, but because they’re likely to change the way both sides play.
It’s unusual for such successful teams to make a significant restart. But neither City nor Liverpool have hired out-and-out centre-forwards on a regular basis in recent seasons, so Haaland and Nunez will offer them more obvious areas of focus.
Will specialist scorers improve them as logic would suggest? Or could playing against them make them more predictable?
Klopp suggests his side struggled to adapt to the strengths of Uruguayan Nunez, who won £64m from Benfica, last season.
It may also take some time for Haaland to settle down at City or for Guardiola’s men, who are so fluid in attack, to get used to new attacking patterns.
This rivalry is aided by his longevity. Two managers in charge of two big clubs for six years is rare in modern football.
Kevin De Bruyne is now the last remaining member of the professional team that Guardiola took over from Manuel Pellegrini in 2016.
Many would argue that Klopp is the better manager pound for pound as Guardiola has never proven himself at a club that was not financially dominant
And while Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Joe Gomez all played ahead of Klopp at Anfield, these are two sides undeniably constructed in their managers’ image.
There is immense mutual respect between them. Guardiola admits Liverpool’s relentless pursuit has propelled his own team to greater heights.
The Reds boss is usually confident that Guardiola has bigger budgets both here and in Germany, where the Catalan managed Bayern Munich while Klopp presided at Borussia Dortmund.
Many would argue that Klopp is the better manager pound for pound as Guardiola has never proven himself at a club that was not financially dominant.
But Klopp’s shot at immortality – last season’s quadruple – was nullified by City’s late comeback against Aston Villa on the final day of the last Premier League campaign, before Real beat his side in Paris.
Both men have won too much Silver to worry too much about the Community Shield goal. But will it still be a great watch?
With these two sides denying it, you’d be shocked if it didn’t.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/5890264/liverpool-and-man-city-fight-again-in-community-shield-final-with-nunez-vs-haaland-and-pep-vs-klopp-promising-a-thriller/ Liverpool and Man City battle it out again in the Community Shield final, with Nunez v Haaland and Pep v Klopp promising a thrill