Liverpool vs. Man City head-to-head: Record, title races, trophies of Klopp vs. Guardiola rivalry
Supporters of the other Premier League-era heavyweights in Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal will bridle at the suggestion, but it has never been bigger than this.
Manchester City and Liverpool meet at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday with everything on the line. There is one point between the teams, with City on 73 to Liverpool’s 72 after 30 games.
This is something of a theme. The last time Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp’s sides truly went blow-for-blow for a league title, City prevailed by 98 to 97. Counting cumulative points totals from the start of that 2018/19 campaign, City have 338 points to Liverpool’s 337.
The level of excellence is mind-boggling and there is so little to choose between them over a period where they have left the rest of England’s top division in their wake. Bayern Munich might argue otherwise, but City and Liverpool have a very strong case to be considered the two best teams in the world right now.
Previous battles for supremacy in England had greater enmity – football rules around the turn of the decade allowed for more physical on-field confrontations and led to things being thrown in players’ tunnel, from Roy Keane insults to slices of pizza – but in terms of relentlessness, Klopp and Guardiola have built something that stands apart.
When did Man City and Liverpool first go head-to-head for the title?
Throughout the 20th century, Liverpool and City’s periods of success generally didn’t cross over. City had won the then-more glamorous FA Cup three times before Liverpool’s maiden triumph in 1965.
Bill Shankly’s first two Division One titles came either side of that before City won the league in 1967/68 – the first of four major honours in three seasons under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison.
Liverpool then entered their imperial period of the 1970s and 1980s, establishing the club as the biggest in the country and one of the biggest in Europe.
City finished as runners-up to them in 1976/77 but would soon embark upon a run of mismanagement, mediocrity and shambles encompassing several relegations over the best part of three decades.
By the time of Sheikh Mansour’s transformative takeover of 2008 in east Manchester, Rafael Benitez’s Champions League-winning tenure was spluttering to a conclusion at Anfield and Liverpool were a distant 8th when City won their first top-flight crown for 42 years in 2011/12.
Two seasons later, with Manuel Pellegrini having replaced crowd hero Roberto Mancini as manager, City were expected to challenge again. However, few picked their nearest rivals.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 13, 2019
A vibrant young Liverpool team under Brendan Rodgers, inspired by a sensational front three of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and a teenage Raheem Sterling found a rampant run of form after the turn of the year.
In an undefeated run of 16 Premier League matches starting on January 1, they won 14 – including a stirring 3-2 win over City at Anfield exactly eight years ago this weekend.
“This does not slip!” Steven Gerrard unforgettably hollered during the post-match huddle, before doing just that to let Demba Ba score in 2-0 Chelsea victory at Anfield in the third-last game of the campaign.
Liverpool then let a 3-0 lead slip to draw 3-3 at Crystal Palace, while City won all of their final five matches to take the title by two points on the final day of the season.
How did Raheem Sterling stoke the Man City vs. Liverpool rivalry?
In terms of a lasting rivalry, that season proved to be a false dawn. Pellegrini’s City finished a distant 2nd to Chelsea in 2014/15, while Liverpool’s form collapsed more spectacularly.
A spree including a gamble on ex-City striker Mario Balotelli followed Suarez’s departure to Barcelona, but by the time the Reds slumped to 6-1 defeat at Stoke City in Gerrard’s final match, another transfer saga had taken centre stage.
“It’s not about the money at all,” Sterling said in a BBC interview after he turned down a reported £100,000 per-week contract extension with Liverpool.
“Never once in my life has it been about money. I talk about winning trophies throughout my career. I don’t talk about how many cars I’m going to drive or how many houses I’ve got. I just purely want to be the best I can be.”
He added: “I don’t want to be perceived as a money-grabbing 20-year-old. I want to be seen as a 20-year-old kid who loves playing football and doing his best for the team.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 7, 2022
As a public relations exercise, it backfired and Sterling was subjected to relentless vitriol from television studios, newspaper columns and his own club’s supporters.
Ultimately, he decided his desire for trophies was best served at Manchester City, who made him the most expensive English footballer in history at that time when joined in a deal worth £49 million in July 2015.
Sterling has won three Premier League titles, five League Cups and an FA Cup at City – and, while his initial efforts in games against Liverpool seemed to suffer under high scrutiny, he has three goals across his last four starts in the fixture.
In the other of those games, an on-field row with Joe Gomez spilt over onto England duty. Keane and Vieira eat your hearts out!
When did Pep Guardiola first face Jurgen Klopp in England?
Sterling’s first return to Anfield came with a shellacking from the stands and a 3-0 win for Liverpool, who had ex-City midfielder James Milner on target and very much eschewing the modern convention of not celebrating against former clubs.
Klopp was at the helm by this point, with Rodgers having departed earlier in the season. In an early hint of the majesty to come under his management, Liverpool also thumped a dishevelled City 4-1 at Etihad Stadium in November 2015.
The only catch was City prevailed on penalties when the teams met in the League Cup final the following February, a few days before Milner’s revenge. By that stage, City had already announced Guardiola would succeed Pellegrini for the 2016/17 campaign on a three-year contract.
Having competed with Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund during the first two of his three Bundesliga-winning seasons with Bayern Munich, Guardiola had to wait until New Year’s Eve of his first turbulent season at City to take on Liverpool.
Georginio Wijnaldum got the only goal at Anfield that day, while Sergio Aguero cancelled out a Milner penalty when the sides met at Etihad Stadium in March 2017.
That 1-1 draw helped each in their now modest-looking ambitions of securing a top-four spot. It was an aim both City and Liverpool achieved – something that came to be very significant when their horizons had broadened considerably a year later.
What happened when Liverpool played Man City at Anfield in 2018?
Liverpool signed Roma’s Mohamed Salah in the close-season of 2017, meaning Klopp now had his emblematic front three, with the “Egyptian King” joining Sadio Mane, who joined a year earlier from Southampton, and Rodgers signing Roberto Firmino.
City embarked upon a more substantial overhaul, with Ederson, Kyle Walker and Bernardo Silva among those to join a core of players who had become attuned to Guardiola’s ways over the previous 12 months.
Klopp’s side still gave City plenty of early problems during a September meeting in Manchester, only for Mane to be sent off for booting Ederson in the head. Liverpool collapsed into an ungainly heap and City ran out 5-0 winners.
It was one of several statement victories at the stage of the season, laying the groundwork for Guardiola’s side to amass a record-breaking 100-point haul as they waltzed to the Premier League title.
Those efforts suggested City were without compare in England, but Liverpool had other ideas bloodied the nose of an imperious foe.
When the runaway league leaders headed to Anfield in January 2018, they were yet to taste defeat domestically and an “invincibles” season was being spoken about.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Leroy Sane exchanged goals in a pulsating first half before City were ransacked by what Klopp described as “pressing from another planet”.
Firmino, Mane and Salah all scored and a late rally featuring goals from Bernardo and Ilkay Gundogan could not spare Guardiola from a breathless 4-3 defeat.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 6, 2021
Even if City’s players were grateful to avoid any physical injuries when their bus was bricked and bottled on the way to Anfield for an April Champions League quarter-final, the scars of that defeat remained.
They slumped to a 3-0 loss which set the tone for Liverpool’s glorious new era in Europe, with Klopp’s men surging into a 3-0 lead inside half an hour and then keeping their opponents at arm’s length.
City threw everything at them in the return leg, with Gabriel Jesus scoring in the second minute. Not for the last time in the fixture, Guardiola was incensed by a decision when Sane had a goal incorrectly chalked off for offside before half-time.
City then ran out of steam and Salah and Firmino cashed in to close out a 5-1 aggregate triumph. Liverpool rode that wave to the final, where they ran into a Gareth Bale-inspired Real Madrid.
A year later, the Reds lifted a sixth European title thanks to a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, with the additions of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk making them an imposingly-complete team.
Have Man City improved their record against Liverpool?
In many respects, those Anfield games of 2018 continue to set the tone for this rivalry. No other team has proved themselves capable of going toe-to-toe with Guardiola’s City in such a manner and prevailing.
As such, it has arguably hovered under the radar that the reigning Premier League champions have had the better of the head-to-head recently.
In that titanic 2018/19 season, a new wariness gripped both teams as they played out a 0-0 October draw at Anfield. As nerves were shredded the following spring, plenty of a City persuasion continued to rue Riyad Mahrez thumping a late penalty into the Merseyside sky in that fixture.
In January, Liverpool had their rivals by the throat, taking a seven-point lead to Etihad Stadium. The most compelling of numerous high-quality, high-octane encounters followed.
Aguero violently lashed City into a first-half lead after a heart-stopping John Stones goalline clearance. Firmino equalised but Sterling laid on Sane to fire home a winner via the inside of Alisson’s post.
It is the game many anticipate being re-enacted this weekend, because the intensity has never quite reached that level since.
The 2-2 draw earlier this season on Merseyside was a thriller but naturally lacked too much jeopardy, coming as it did in early October.
City hammered freshly-minted Premier League champions Liverpool 4-0 in July 2020 – Klopp’s men ripped into a remarkable run of 26 wins from the first 27 games of that season to leave Guardiola’s side trailing a distant 2nd – and also claimed a first Anfield win since 2003 with a 4-1 triumph in February last year.
But both those games, along with a 1-1 draw in Manchester last term, came behind closed doors due to the pandemic. City won the 2019 Community Shield on penalties, another fixture where some will attach an asterisk due to its relative lack of importance.
Nevertheless, a 3-1 2019 win at Anfield in their title-winning campaign is Liverpool’s only success in the past eight meetings. If you put a little star next to all of those other fixtures, you’ve stopped annotating a results list and taken up flag designing.
What is Jurgen Klopp’s record against Pep Guardiola and which trophies have they won?
This run has evened up the individual head-to-head between the two managers, going back to their time together in Germany. They have nine wins apiece from 22 games, with four draws. Once again, it could not be tighter.
Guardiola now has three league titles at City to go with the trio he collected at Barca and Bayern. A pair of Copas del Rey and DFB-Pokals now sit alongside the 2019 FA Cup and four League Cups in England.
Prior to Guardiola’s arrival in his homeland, Klopp won two Bundesliga crowns with Dortmund before making it three career league titles with Liverpool in 2019/20.
The latter of those BVB successes in 2011/12 was a league and cup double and he is aiming for a bigger haul with Liverpool this time around after seeing off Chelsea on penalties to end City’s four-year streak in the League Cup.
Guardiola has two Champions League wins to Klopp’s one, although the latter’s success was far more recent in 2019, set against the Barcelona triumphs of 2009 and 2011.
On each occasion they were kings of Europe, Klopp and Guardiola followed that up with Club World Cup glory. The Catalan also lifted that honour with Bayern after replacing Champions League-winner Jupp Heynckes in 2013.
If one prevails this weekend it would hugely increase their chances of adding another big prize to those medal collections. But the loser should not be diminished, given the levels of greatness they have driven each other to establish.
Pep Guardiola vs. Jurgen Klopp in quotes
“You cannot imagine. This is one of the happiest days of my career as a manager.”
Guardiola after the 1-1 draw with Liverpool that came on the back of City being knocked out of the Champions League by Monaco in 2017.
“He is Spanish. They are a little more emotional than the Germans!”
Klopp’s chuckling response to Guardiola’s big claim.
“I am not sure if Pep spoke in that moment about Sadio or the team – both is not too nice to be honest. Somebody showed it to me because I had to see it as everybody told me about it…
“I couldn’t really believe it to be honest. Then I saw it… I promise not to mention tactical fouls.”
Klopp after Guardiola accused Mane of diving in the build-up to Liverpool’s 3-1 win over City at Anfield in November 2019.
“He made a mistake – it was two months off, or three months off? No, four. Four months off. That’s why we are in top form right now. Jurgen has to see the calendar again. We had Covid, we had one week and we played with 14 players at Stamford Bridge.
“I’m surprised. I thought Jurgen was not that type of manager, like other ones who are usually doing it. I didn’t expect that comment. But maybe it was a misunderstanding from him.”
Guardiola’s sarcastic response to Klopp’s claim last season that City had two weeks off during the season due to a coronavirus outbreak.
“I’m not sure if I ever told Pep, but I like him! I annoy him with things I say in press conferences that are not meant to say anything bad about him or Man City. Somebody on the City staff tells him that ‘Klopp said this’ and I can see in his conference he gets really angry.
“Sorry for that! I respect him a lot. I want to win desperately, he wants to do that and we are completely different personalities. But nonetheless I like him and I respect him.”
Klopp on Guardiola before this season’s game at Anfield.
“I think Jurgen makes world football a better place to live [with] his message. Of course he is a huge competitor and I think it’s good.
“I try to have a good relationship with all the managers, [but] I learned over the years it is better not to have [close] relationships with them. He knows, we spoke together in Germany and here, my admiration about what he does.”
Guardiola on Klopp ahead of Sunday’s game.