Sunday’s game between Liverpool and Manchester City is likely to be the last time Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola face off in a Premier League game. After years of testing one another, we look at one of the biggest and best managerial rivalries in football.

Liverpool versus Manchester City. Despite the competition between the two cities, these two clubs never used to be considered rivals. When Liverpool beat City 6-0 in October 1995, it was just another game. When Kiki Musampa hit a 90th-minute winner against Liverpool in April 2005, it was just another game.

Now, the world stops to watch these two do battle, in no small part due to the two men who will once again be on the touchline at Anfield on Sunday.

The success brought to Liverpool and Man City by Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola has raised the bar in the English game. Before they arrived in England, there had never been a Premier League season in which two teams had broken 90 points, but in both 2018-19 and 2021-22, Klopp’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s City did just that, with the latter side edging the title on both occasions.

Between them, they account for the top four points totals ever in a Premier League campaign (Liverpool – 99 (19-20) and 97 (18-19); City – 100 (17-18) and 98 (18-19)).

Most points in a Premier League season top five

Both will need to slightly improve their points-per-game rate to get over 90 again this season, but they are setting the pace once more along with Arsenal in an enthralling title race.

Sunday’s clash isn’t just an important game in the race for the title, though. It is set to be the final time Klopp and Guardiola will face off in the Premier League, and possibly in all competitions, at least with their current clubs (both teams remain in the FA Cup).

When Klopp announced in January that this will be his final season as Liverpool manager – insisting that he will never take charge of another English team in future – Guardiola was asked for his thoughts. While he could not hide a certain amount of relief, he also took the time to pay tribute to his “best rival”.

“I will sleep better,” he joked. “The day before playing Liverpool, it was always a nightmare. We cannot define our period here without him, without Liverpool. The best rival I have ever had in my life.”

That has been a theme of their comments about one another down the years. While they have looked animated on the touchline and sometimes been prickly in front of the media, they have regularly made sure to offer the highest of praise and respect to one another.

“I’m not sure if I ever told Pep, but I like him!” Klopp said in October 2021. “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.”

In April 2022, Klopp also labelled Guardiola “the world’s best manager” while the former Barcelona boss has insisted his contests with Klopp have been a big part of his own development.

“Absolutely, he made me better,” Guardiola said. “He helped me reflect on a lot of things with the problems they have created for us, it’s part of when you are many years in this business, him and his teams, here and Dortmund have always been big rivals, good games for both, both teams have a positive approach to the games and always attractive.”

They were already familiar with one another from their clashes in Germany. Guardiola’s Bayern Munich won three of their four Bundesliga meetings with Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund, with BVB winning the other one. Klopp did have the better of cup games, though, beating Bayern in two DFL-Supercups. Guardiola and Bayern won the 2013-14 DFB-Pokal final against them but Klopp had some revenge when Dortmund beat their rival in the semi-finals the following season.

Klopp arrived at Liverpool in October 2015, and by the start of the following season, Guardiola was in place at City as they prepared to do battle once more.

Again, Klopp’s side have performed better in cup competitions. Liverpool beat City 5-1 on aggregate in the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and won 3-2 in the FA Cup semi-finals in 2021-22, though Guardiola’s men did beat Liverpool by the same score in last season’s EFL Cup. They also have one Community Shield victory apiece against one another.

Sunday will be their 16th, and likely final, Premier League meeting. So far, Klopp has won four, Guardiola five, with the two also contesting six draws, so a Liverpool victory would leave things nice and even. All of their league wins under Klopp have come at Anfield, so it’s a good job for them this game will be on home turf.

In total across their previous 15 Premier League meetings, Man City have scored 30 goals to Liverpool’s 19. Klopp’s side have averaged 8.9 shots per game to City’s 12.0, while their expected goals (xG) per game has sat at 1.02 to City’s 1.64.

Klopp vs Guardiola head-to-head PL

It has been a rivalry largely dominated by the home team. Guardiola and City have won just once in seven trips to Anfield (D2 L4); a 4-1 victory in the 2020-21 season when the game was played behind closed doors.

It all began with a 1-0 Liverpool win at Anfield in December 2016, followed by a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium during a season in which neither team came anywhere near runaway champions Chelsea. That was all soon to change.

Liverpool 1-0 Man City 2016

During Man City’s momentous 100-point campaign in 2017-18, they thrashed Liverpool 5-0 at the Etihad after a 37th-minute Sadio Mané red card with the score at 1-0, after which Liverpool didn’t have a single shot while a ruthless City added four more goals.

Man City 5-0 Liverpool xG race

The return fixture in January 2018 was an altogether different affair though as Liverpool won a thriller at Anfield 4-3, ending City’s previously undefeated run that season. The game featured seven goals despite both collectively recording just 1.59 xG.

Liverpool 4-3 Man City xG race 2018

That was a sign of things to come, with Liverpool rising from top-four contenders to joining Man City in scaling the Premier League table to heights never seen before.

Their titanic title race in 2018-19 led to City pipping Liverpool to the crown by a remarkable 98 points to 97. A 0-0 draw at Anfield in their first meeting that season was followed by a 2-1 win for City in a dramatic game at the Etihad in early January. Little did we know that it would be a crucial win, as it proved to be the only league defeat for Klopp’s team that season, but Guardiola’s side won 16 of their remaining 17 Premier League games (L1) to clinch the title by a single point.

Man City 2-1 Liverpool 2019

Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Anfield in November 2019 was a notable checkpoint on their way to winning the league that season, which they achieved just before they were beaten 4-0 by City in the return fixture. Having been crowned champions just before that game, Liverpool’s players might have still been recovering from their celebrations.

The largely forgettable ‘Covid-19 season’ that saw games almost entirely played without fans in 2020-21 included a 1-1 draw in Manchester and the aforementioned 4-1 win for City at Anfield, while another fantastic title race between Klopp and Guardiola in 2021-22 included a pair of exhilarating 2-2 draws, with City again beating Liverpool to the title by a solitary point, 93 to 92.

Klopp’s men were missing from the title picture last season as Mikel Arteta and Arsenal stepped up to challenge Guardiola’s relentless machine, but they still recorded a 1-0 win over City at Anfield. The eventual treble winners suitably dished out revenge as they closed in on another Premier League title with a 4-1 win over Liverpool on 1 April 2023. It seemed to focus minds for the Reds, though, who have only lost two league games in 38 since then (W26 D10).

One of those draws was the 1-1 between City and Liverpool at the Etihad in November when Trent Alexander-Arnold cancelled out Erling Haaland’s opener.

Man City 1-1 Liverpool momentum

Klopp has brought the good times back to Liverpool, but from a wider perspective, has kept the Premier League competitive at a time when it probably otherwise wouldn’t have been. His team haven’t been perfect, especially in the 2020-21 and 2022-23 seasons, but it’s notable that Man City won the title in both of those years with three games still remaining. When Klopp’s team have been motoring, Guardiola’s men have had to find extra gears and keep going until the final few minutes of the campaign. You could argue that without each other, neither manager or team would have reached the heights they have.

It has been a rivalry with some bad blood along the way, but in the main it has seen two legendary figures lock horns in a (mostly) respectful way. The players and fans might not be all that keen on one another but with most rivalries in football these days often lacking basic human decency, let alone respect, it has been refreshing to see the two managers so eager to praise the other where it’s deserved.

After learning of Klopp’s decision to leave, Guardiola added: “Of course I wish him all the best. He will not admit it, but he will be back, I know it. Maybe in 10 years’ time. Football needs personalities and managers like him. Hopefully next year we can go for dinner together.”

What most football fans wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall for that dinner.

There is still a Premier League title to fight over before then. Whatever the outcome at Anfield on Sunday, or in the title race in May, Klopp and Guardiola have given the Premier League one of its best rivalries ever.

Enjoy this? Subscribe to our football newsletter to receive exclusive weekly content. You should also follow our social accounts over on XInstagramTikTok and Facebook.