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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool versus Manchester City has become the defining Premier League rivalry of the era, but it is playing to a different soundtrack to its predecessors.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have spent the past 24 hours sending each other compliments of the season, the only hint of pre-match acrimony coming as they dispute who is leading the world's best team.

"Liverpool," says Guardiola.

"Manchester City," Klopp responded.

Each declared the other the title favourite, while Guardiola's suggestion City would be out of the race if they lost tonight has been received with such a large pinch of salt that there will be no icy roads near Melwood this winter.

The mutual admiration is genuine. The pre-match compliments sound suspiciously forced. "We say what we say because you ask," said Klopp.

"If we only prepared, Pep would not say to the players, 'If you lose it, now it is over'. Nobody speaks like that." The good news for Klopp as he leads Liverpool into their biggest Premier League game for five years is that he knows what is coming.

The bad news as he leads Liverpool into their biggest Premier League game for five years is that he knows what is coming.

"A thunderstorm," the Liverpool manager said, recalling his most recent trip to the Etihad for last season's Champions League quarter-final. Liverpool won, but they needed their survival shelter in the first 25 minutes.

"We were a bit lucky, we know that, because they scored a second goal that the referee disallowed," said Klopp. "That can be the situation again, but on the other side, we are a different team. I don't want it to sound like a threat because it's not. It is just the situation.

"I don't prepare any game in the world by saying, 'Last time there we smashed them'. That is just not right. We changed, they changed, the situation changed. The weather will be different, the pitch will be different, there is nothing to compare. To know you can do it is not bad.

"It is better than when losing five games there 10-0, but it does not help in a massive way.

"We have improved since last year, as we had to, but still this is the most difficult game to play because of their quality, the variations they are able to do and the different formations they can play."

City are better than they were when winning the title, says Klopp.

"Last season, they got 100 points and people say, 'How can they do that again?'. But they worked exactly on that way - ruthless, full of desire. Greedy. Everything you need to be really successful. That is how I saw it. December was not their month but now it is January," he said. "We have got no problems with comparisons. But at some point, you have to be yourself and not to try to be like someone else.

"Last season, we were absolutely ourselves. We reached the Champions League through really difficult games - Porto, Man City, Roma. The way the boys did it really was special."

That means Klopp and his players can go into fixtures of this magnitude knowing they have been there and done it, even if there is caution with confidence.

"I trust them 100 per cent but you never feel certainty," said Klopp. "I will never be so sure to say, 'We will deliver again'. It is an open question, 'Can we do it again?' You don't know. I played football. You win four games in a row but in the fifth game what does it mean?

"These boys are of a different level and quality, that is true. It is not about me talking like this or that. We are all in the same mood, 100 per cent. That is the mood in which we go to City."

The clubs' first meeting this season did not live up to the hype, a goalless Anfield draw memorable only for Riyad Mahrez's late penalty miss.

"It was full of respect from both sides for each other. Nobody wanted to really open up because, if you do it, they kill you," said Klopp.

So, will tonight bring more thunder and lightning?

"I don't respond in a geographic way, but it will be a very intense game," said Klopp.

"Do the best you can. Get the result you deserve."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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