Pep Guardiola: ‘Battling with Jurgen Klopp keeps me motivated to keep on as manager’

The top two managers of the Premier League will go head-to-head again this Sunday at Anfield.

Pep Guardiola says Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp motivates him to continue in football management.

The two managers have been in direct competition for the Premier League title over the last few years and will do battle once again at Anfield on Sunday.

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Klopp has the advantage with his Reds side ahead by a point but it is that competitiveness between the two which has prolonged Guardiola’s time in management.

“He helped me, his teams helped me to be a better manager,” revealed the City boss on Friday.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Picture: Liverpool FC/ Youtube

“He gives me another level to think about it, to prove myself, what I have to do to be a better manager with our teams to try and beat them.

“It’s the reason why I’m still in this business. There are some managers, Jurgen is one, to challenge you to move a step forward.”

The pair previously came up against one another during Pep’s three-year spell in Germany with Bayern Munich.

Klopp departed Dortmund in 2015 but competed for German football’s top prize, the Bundesliga, but fell short on the two occasions.

The German is Guardiola’s biggest foe given the record he has against him. In the 21 times the two have faced up against one another, he has won nine and drawn nine, averaging 1.43 points a game, the lowest at that point.

“In Germany when we face each other, I couldn’t face him in Barcelona. Here we have many years, many competitions together.

“Every game was nice, both teams have the same idea, to score goals in different ways. Quicker than us, but in the same way to win the games.”

Liverpool back to title contenders

After winning their first Premier League title, it was expected that Liverpool would challenge once more after a trophy-laden spell.

Last season however, they fell short of expectations, failing to win a trophy and finishing a whole 17 points behind City.

Part of that was down to their injury problems with influential centre-back Virgil van Dijk on the sidelines.

But after a strong start to the season and their key players back, Pep is of the firm belief that they are back challenging for their crown.

“Liverpool since I arrived here, first year maybe not, after the year that we won 100 points and they won the Champions League, Liverpool always was there. Last season they had many problems in the same position. Otherwise would have been different, and especially because we were excellent again.

Defeat in midweek but Pep is happier’ than ever. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

“The last four years we were both there. It’s the biggest compliment both clubs were there. In the Premier League there are not just one, two, there are many teams who can fight for the league.

“For us, it’s an honour to be rivals with Liverpool. Decades ago we weren’t rivals to them. For many years we have tried to compete with these legendary clubs so it’s an honour. Hopefully for them too. To compete against one of the historic teams in England that’s nice for us.”

What is Sterling’s best position?

One of the common themes of the conference were the questions about Raheem Sterling and where he fitted into the side.

He has just one goal in the Premier League this season and question marks are asked of where he can be best utilised.

The England international can play on both attacking flanks as well as up front, which is the position he played in the defeat to Paris Saint-Germain.

Guardiola said: “He can play on the right but at the start of the season Gabriel plays really well. The game we need guys one against one, Jack and opponents can track opponents and we need to be more specific.

“If we need a guy who runs right and left, Raheem is the best in the squad. Depends how we want to attack and we need specific qualities. Raheem can play good on the left, 100 points incredible. On the left 98 points.

“As a striker his movement always creates something for himself. Like Ferran he was so good, he has been training so good.

“Raheem played really well as a striker at PSG, creating incredible chances,” he added.

“One and another one with the movement. We need it. Speed, zero to 100 he did it exceptionally.

Pep is ‘happier than ever’

On the back of a 2-0 defeat to a crucial group rival in the Champions League, you'd perhaps think that morale may have dipped, but Guardiola is happy.

He was impressed with the level of performance and attitude, claiming it is the best that he has seen during his tenure, but that there is always room for improvement.

“The level has been so great, huge these games. Despite the result in France the performance was excellent. We didn’t win the game, obviously we did at Stamford Bridge. We have nine months more ahead of us.

“I’m not going to make a step back about the way we’re thinking we have to do, just improve what we have to do. We can be better in some departments. In general, right now the team I feel more happy than ever for the way we behave and play.

Given the success of the club in recent years, it may be an eye-catching remark, but the return of De Bruyne and Foden, who had been nursing injuries, showed the club could adapt in their absence.

"The way we played last two games, makes me so satisfied what we have done."Of course I'm incredibly happy when we won the Premier League but this kind of period, when Kevin De Bruyne training just two weeks, and Phil Foden just two weeks, important players injured, we come back so late. After how we overcome some situations in that period.