First, on Sunday the teams meet in the Premier League at the Etihad, in a game that will likely decide England’s next champion. Next Saturday they will face off again, this time at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. The two matches could well be the prelude to a third meeting, all in all more epic: Liverpool and City are favorites to reach the Champions League final on May 28 in Paris.
The parallel with these 18 days in Spain, of course, is not perfect. Manchester City and Liverpool have maintained a fierce rivalry in recent years, but they lack the depth and context of the clásico. Its tendrils do not go back decades and are not tied to issues of politics and history and, in particular, national identity.
Likewise, Guardiola and Klopp don’t have the same combustible chemistry as Guardiola and Mourinho. It would be an exaggeration to say they are friends, but nearly a decade after they first met in Germany, they remain cordial. In 2020, Guardiola called Klopp in the early hours of the morning to congratulate him on winning the Premier League. Klopp describes Guardiola as the best coach in the world at every opportunity.
Many other ingredients, however, are present. Just like with Real Madrid and Barcelona, everything hinges on the matches between these two clubs. One of these teams will win the Premier League. One of them will go to the FA Cup final as a heavy favourite. Only Bayern Munich could be considered a peer in the Champions League.
Both managers did what they could to quash the idea, but both are seen to be chasing multiples of glory: City, a domestic and European treble, last achieved by an English side in 1999; and Liverpool, an unprecedented and, indeed, unlikely sweep of the four trophies at their disposal. Their encounters are, in this light, the whole ball game.