Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hinted Pep Guardiola’s decision to personally attend his side’s game against Stoke City reflects how seriously they are being taken as title challengers.
The Reds host Guardiola’s Manchester City side at Anfield on New Year’s Eve in a match that could have a major impact on the Premier League title race.
Guardiola watched on from the stands as Klopp’s Liverpool came from behind to emphatically beat Stoke 4-1 as they kept up apace with their rivals, who all won on St Stephen’s Day.
Liverpool’s win lifted them back up to second place — six points behind table-topping Chelsea.
“The sporting director sent me a message to say Pep was in the stadium,” said Klopp.
“I am not sure he watched a lot of other games in the last few weeks in other stadiums. That’s a first sign it’s a special game, and we are already looking forward to it.
“I respect them a lot but I was not in the Man City stadium this season or last season. Only to play games.
“It’s a difficult game for both teams, but exciting and the best thing it’s at Anfield. We are looking forward to it. They are an outstanding good side, we are not too bad. So it will be a nice game.”
On managers attending matches, Klopp said: “Is it unusual? I don’t know. I did it a lot in the past. It’s not too easy anymore because it’s more an autograph signing hour than watching a game.
“Maybe he saw nothing, hopefully there was no security and Pep had to write always autographs!”
Klopp was reluctant to turn up the heat on City ahead of the match although he acknowledged morale is high among his players.
“The game is on the 31st and whatever I say now cannot win it,” said the German.
“But maybe I could say a few things which make it more difficult! Probably best I shut my mouth.
“I would say confidence is not a problem of the team at the moment, we know our quality.”
Klopp revealed he had no reservations about selecting Roberto Firmino against Stoke, even though the Brazil forward had been charged with drink driving on Christmas Eve. “No. Because he was the best man in training so there was no chance to leave him out,” said Klopp.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes believes Liverpool proved again why they are strong contenders for the title.
“They are a good side and have good players, who can take chances,” said Hughes.
“They’ll go close. We play Chelsea next so I’ll be better placed to tell you then.”
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