Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is looking forward to pitting his wits against Pep Guardiola again after seeing the Reds fight back to beat Stoke City 4-1 in the Premier League on Tuesday.
The Reds moved back above Manchester City into second place in the table, and to within six points of leaders Chelsea, after claiming their third consecutive win and maintaining their unbeaten record at Anfield this season.
The win, secured thanks to goals by Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and a Giannelli Imbula own goal, set Liverpool up nicely for their New Year’s Eve home clash with City, whose manager was in the Anfield crowd doing a spot of scouting.
“I’m not sure whether he watched a lot of games in the last few weeks in other stadiums. That is the first sign it is a special game and we are already looking forward to it,” Klopp said.
The German – a direct rival of Guardiola’s when the pair were in charge of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively – admitted that it can be difficult to go to see opposition teams in action these days because the Premier League’s superstar managers risk spending more time signing autographs than actually watching games.
“I respect them a lot also but I have not been at their stadium this season. Maybe he just wants to watch good football,” he joked.
“It’s a difficult game for both teams but exciting and the best thing is it’s at Anfield. They are an outstanding side and we are not too bad.”
Liverpool have won eight and drawn two of 10 games at Anfield this season and have not been beaten in front of their own fans in 23 games going back to January.
City can therefore expect to face a daunting task but Stoke – the last visiting team to win at Anfield – looked like they could spring a surprise after Jonathan Walters put them in front in the 12th minute.
Lallana equalised and Firmino’s fine strike just before half-time made it 2-1 before Liverpool ran away with the game in the second period.
The Brazilian’s goal, his sixth of the season, came three days after he was arrested and charged for drink driving in the centre of Liverpool, and Klopp said there had been no prospect of the player being dropped.
“No because he was the best man in training so there was no chance to leave him out. No chance. He was outstanding,” he said.
‘We can do better’
There were important contributions from Sadio Mane, who forced Imbula into turning the ball into his own net, and Sturridge, who came off the bench and seconds later had his first goal of the season.
Captain Jordan Henderson was also excellent, but Klopp said it was “not the moment” to shower praise on individuals.
“I don’t think they need it. In this moment they are all happy about the team performance, the result, about the goals we scored,” he said.
“If we speak about one player we speak always about the past but I already think about the next game and hopefully we can do better.”
Stoke boss Mark Hughes has still never won at Anfield as a manager and he was left to rue defensive errors that contributed to his team’s downfall.
“We deservedly took the lead. The disappointment is that we allowed them back into the game just before half-time. We went in 2-1 down feeling a little bit hard done by,” said Hughes.
“We made a couple of individual errors again for the next two goals and it was very difficult to come back from that. Because of individual and collective errors we have been beaten by four goals which is a little bit unfair on us,” added Hughes, whose side are without a win in four and go to Chelsea next.