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‘Forget Manchester United’ – Jamie Redknapp sends Liverpool warning to Man City

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Jurgen Klopp had done his stint. Now Pep Guardiola was on stage, flanked by the Premier League and Champions League trophies.

“Maybe we can swap?” asked the Manchester CIty boss as he looked longingly at the European silverware.

This was back in November 2019 when City ruled England and the Reds had conquered the Continent.

Liverpool, at least, kept up their side of the bargain by going on to claim their first title in 30 years.

And while City are now in the boxseat to reclaim the championship, one thing hasn’t changed as Anfield prepares to welcome the league leaders on Sunday afternoon.

“Even with all their problems, Pep will respect Liverpool the most,” says former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp.

“Forget Man United. Liverpool will be the team that he is most worried about and if that front three starts firing again then that’s enough to scare anybody.

“Liverpool are going to cause City problems because of the personnel that they’ve got, because of the players that they have, expansive players and the excitement they have in their team.

“If you offered Pep a draw now, I still think he would take it. But with the way Liverpool are, if City didn’t get after them and take the three points, he will know this is a missed opportunity.”

Guardiola’s admiration – and apprehension – of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is well documented, with the trio expected to be reunited in attack with the Senegalese available after missing the last two games through injury.

Liverpool, stricken by injuries throughout the campaign, have plenty of catching up to do, having fallen seven points behind City – who have a game in hand – after a dismal run of form that has seen them go almost six hours without a goal at Anfield and their long unbeaten home league record ruined by successive defeats to Burnley and Brighton.

But Micah Richards, the former City defender who joined fellow Sky Sports pundit Redknapp to discuss this weekend’s game, believes Liverpool – and Klopp in particular – are still the ones Guardiola most wants to defeat.

“What Klopp has done – Champions League final, Champions League winner and a Premier League – has been absolutely incredible,” says Richards.

“Of course everyone has always been talking about Pep from his Barcelona days. But he hasn’t won the Champions League for, what, 10 years? And then Klopp comes to Liverpool and within his five-year spell he’s won the Champions League.

“It’s going to get under your skin, no matter if you admit it or not. Because that’s part of the rivalry. They respect each other and they drive each other to be better managers.”

Guardiola has yet win at Anfield either as a player or a manager. Indeed, City have triumphed only once in their last 33 visits in all competitions.

Key to Liverpool’s recent triumphs has been a fast start. The Reds had scored twice after 13 minutes in the 3-1 win last season, were 3-0 up after 31 minutes in the Champions League win in 2018, netted after only nine minutes in the 4-3 league win a few months earlier, and scored the only goal after six minutes the previous campaign.

All owed much to Klopp’s side feeding off the crackling atmosphere of a packed Anfield before kick-off, an advantage the Reds now readily admit they are struggling to cope without.

“When there are fans at Anfield, it is the hardest place to go – fact,” says Richards.

“When you’re in the tunnel and all the players are slapping the ‘This is Anfield’ sign, and you go out and the fans are singing their hearts out and the game hasn’t even kicked off, it feels like you’re about to go to war. It’s incredible.

“When people say having no fans there doesn’t matter, of course it matters. Anfield would be bouncing on Sunday if they were there.

“In some cases, I believe it has been a disadvantage for Liverpool there being no fans there.

“Going there is always tough with fans. No disrespect to Burnley and Brighton, if fans were there – and this isn’t me discrediting those teams – when it gets to 60 or 70 minutes and Liverpool are behind, they could get a draw or nick a win easily.”

Redknapp, who made 308 appearances for Liverpool between 1991 and 2001, agrees.

“You were always taught a tradition at Liverpool that if you win the toss, you attack the Kop end,” he says.

“There was always this rumour that there’s a massive slope towards the Kop end. Ronnie Moran would always say to us ‘two minutes to go, they’ll suck one in for you, they’ll do something, something special will happen because it’s Anfield’.

“Klopp was ridiculed after the West Brom game earlier in his time at Liverpool when he and the team stood in front of the Kop because they’d got a late draw.

“People were wondering what he was doing that for. But he was trying to tap into that belief that whatever happens, the crowd are going to be there until the last second of that game, willing it in for you. Now Liverpool have lost that.”

Redknapp adds: “Then there are the injuries. All these little things have conspired against Liverpool. I’m not making excuses for them, I’m just being totally honest. It hasn’t been easiest season for them.

“People are saying Liverpool have lost their long unbeaten run at Anfield. But this isn’t Anfield. This is a pitch with four empty stands around it.”

Watch Liverpool v Manchester City exclusively live on Sky Sports and NOW TV at 4.30pm.

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