Jurgen Klopp has said he is happy that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola views Liverpool as a « pain in the a– » and urged his side to continue pushing the Premier League champions in the title race.
Liverpool will go three points behind league leaders City with a win over Leeds United at Anfield on Wednesday.
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (US only)
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access
– Title race check in: Premier League still up for grabs
A run of eight consecutive victories has seen Liverpool get to within touching distance of City in the league, reach the Carabao Cup final and take one big step towards the Champions League quarterfinals.
Following City’s midweek win at Sporting Lisbon, Guardiola jokingly told CBS Sports that Liverpool were a « pain in the a– » and Klopp said he wants his team to continue to annoy the Spaniard.
When asked about the title race at a news conference on Tuesday, Klopp replied: « First and foremost, it’s important that we are close to the top whoever is at the top because that shows that some things are going in the right direction.
« In the last four seasons — we were not around one year because of our problems and we had some struggles — but before it was an insane race. Both teams are able to do some special stuff, I have to say with all respect [because] what City is doing is incredible.
« I think we are pushing each other as well, not only us because I don’t forget the other teams like Chelsea, [Manchester] United, Arsenal and Tottenham. But, we are pushing each other and that’s how it is and it keeps you going. There is no chance to get a bit soft because the other one will be there immediately to catch you.
« I think what Pep said that we are the pain in the lower back, that’s a good description and that’s how it should be. We try to be as annoying as somehow possible until we have a chance to overtake, but I don’t know when that will be or if that will be the case but what I always said is that we have the decisive moments of the season but it’s not now in February, it’s March and April. »
Klopp also stressed the importance of taking every game seriously with many anticipating Liverpool’s trip to the Etihad in April to be a potential title decider.
« You have to be close enough to make a decision in your direction and I don’t know if that will be the case because what we do is pretty special, and I don’t expect that to happen every week and you cannot turn around games every week, » he added.
« We have to be at our absolute best to play the best possible season for us and unfortunately, only twice a year in the Premier League, we face the other team [City].
« The first one was a draw where we were not brilliant but good enough to get a point, and the next one is not played yet and we have to play the other teams including Tottenham and United as well. We don’t sit here and count those points as done and then we wait for the middle of April for the City game.
« But what the boys did over the past four years is pretty special and I’m happy with that but not overly happy that I think that’s enough. So far, it’s not a bad season but the decisions will be made later and we just have to make sure that we are always in and around when these decisions will be made. »
Klopp also confirmed that Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino will be unavailable to face Leeds and face a battle to be fit for the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea on Feb. 27.