Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes the growing rivalry between them and Manchester City is proof his side are a genuine threat to their next opponents.
The Reds hold a six-point lead over City ahead of Sunday’s visit to Anfield and, although Klopp rates Pep Guardiola as “the best manager in the world”, he believes the teams are on an equal footing.
“I think it’s getting bigger and bigger. I am here for four years, what can I say about traditions?” said the German, whose side lost out by a point in last season’s thrilling title race.
“We live in the now and obviously Man City is a pretty good football team and that means of course there is a rivalry.
“Thank God there is a rivalry as that means we are in a not bad place as well.
“In the last nearly two years it feels like each game we played was the most decisive of the season. There is not one where anyone said ‘You can lose that’.
“Nothing changes, you cannot make games bigger than they are already. It is already a very important game and you cannot make it more important.”
Liverpool’s advantage is such that a draw would probably suit Klopp more than Guardiola, who even when the sides were level on points for the same fixture last October adopted a more conservative approach.
However, Klopp admits if his players even begin to entertain any defensive or negative thoughts they will be punished.
“You cannot be only offensive but if you are not brave against Man City you have no chance, not even for a point,” he added.
“You have to create, your positioning must be nearly perfect, protection must be perfect, (you should have) different ideas.
“You have to try to adapt to the things your opponent is doing usually and make sure they cannot do that and that can lead to other things.”
The match will also mark the return to Anfield of Liverpool fan Sean Cox, who sustained life-changing injuries in an attack by Roma fans outside the ground in April 2018.
Cox, who was in a coma for a time after the assault, and his family will be hosted by the club, whose Legends side raised £640,000 for the Sean Cox Rehabilitation Trust with a match in Dublin in April.
The news has given Klopp a boost ahead of the game.
“When it happened to Sean it was probably the lowest point for me in my whole time at Liverpool because that is something that should not happen in life and it should not happen around a football game,” said the manager.
“(The fact) we can give him the opportunity to come back to watch a really big game – and he wants to do that – for me, coming from a low point, is one of my highlights since I’ve been here.
“I am really looking forward to it. I hope we can organise for me to see him before the game for a couple of minutes – I really want to.
“We don’t normally sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, we really live that, and in this specific situation it was very important to show that.
“I really hope they (the Cox family) felt that the whole time and they will feel it in the future and we can help them in this recovery.”