The star of the Champions League week was, by a reasonable distance, Karim Benzema with his hat-trick for Real Madrid against Chelsea. The Frenchman stole the limelight but this round of matches showed one thing we all already know – Manchester City and Liverpool are the two best teams in Europe and, by extension, the world.
Liverpool were brilliant and professional, beating Benfica 3-1 in Lisbon while City were relentless, securing a 1-0 win over Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid. Provided they can repeat the trick next week in the second games, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t, both sides will be on track to compete for a treble (or for Liverpool, a quartet) at the end of next month.
Next… ⏳#MCILIV pic.twitter.com/5b3t2YVtZa
– Liverpool FC (LFC) April 7, 2022
The biggest obstacle for Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp in achieving the treble and the approbation that accompanies it is each other. The rivalry between the two giants managers has enriched football over the past few years, and on Sunday, they added another chapter to this story, but this one is more important than any to date.
It is a favorite pastime not only for football but for sports fans in general to discuss and argue about things that are very subjective and no consensus can be reached. Former Liverpool star Jamie Carragher caught A similar struggle in dialectical controversy by claiming that this rivalry between Manchester City and Liverpool is the greatest ever in the history of the English language.
This is amazing @Manchester City LFC Rivalry is the best we have in English football!! We’ve never had the two best teams and managers in the world fighting together.
– Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) April 8, 2022
The personal preferences and agendas of the supporters will determine whether or not you agree with them, but one thing is undeniable – this rivalry is truly unique. Despite the intensity, there is little animosity between the two sides, and the quarrels between them are intense, contained in the grass patch at Union and Anfield, and occasionally Wembley.
The old animosities I had against the current duo are Manchester United and Arsenal between 1997 and 2004, Chelsea and Manchester United in the mid-2000s, Liverpool and Everton in the 1980s, and possibly Manchester United and City in the early 2000s. . All this was accompanied by rowdy press conferences, quarrels on the seam, and bold words in the tunnels. There has never been a rivalry exclusively related to football like today’s match between Manchester City and Liverpool.
A match like no other
Just one point separates the two teams at the top of the Premier League table as they head into Sunday’s game. They face each other the following weekend in the FA Cup semi-final and are likely to be the Champions League finalists given that they are on opposite sides of the arc.
A word from the president before the decisive confrontation this weekend! 🗣#city of Manchester pic.twitter.com/HklyaHnSEx
– Manchester City (ManCity) April 8, 2022
Thus, the Etihad Airways has repercussions far beyond the usual bragging rights and supremacy complex. This is a defining moment in the rivalry – similar to the four Clásicos in 18 days in 2011 at the height of Pep Mourinho’s feud. It may also be the only time, other than a confrontation earlier in the season, when the two teams meet at their peak.
Both teams feel like the ultimate version of coaching development over the past few seasons, and not only would the winner have the upper hand in the title race and a psychological advantage for subsequent matches, but in some ways would have won the ideological battle between Klopp’s gegenpress and Pep’s positioning.
For some, this may not be of the utmost importance. The lack of innate hatred between parties and managers and the absence of a broader cultural context may make this rivalry appear artificial and trivial. However, just the sporting competition has implications for the future of football.
It could determine how tactics evolve in the coming years, and the length of the decades following for Pep and Klopp, among other things. Or it could just be a fun soccer game. Either way, football fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks.