As Manchester City players and fans may still be on a high after their dramatic Premier League title win, there may be a drop back down to earth this weekend as Liverpool and Real Madrid prepare for the Champions League final.
City were seconds away from facing Liverpool in the final, but collapsed at the Bernabeu to allow Real to force extra time in the semi-final, where they would eventually win the tie and send the Blues crashing out. The response to that could not have been stronger from City, who were defiant on and off the pitch to secure a fourth title in five years and end Liverpool’s quadruple hopes.
Blues fans may be keen to see Liverpool’s revised treble chances ended on Saturday against Real, but there may be a part of Pep Guardiola who will be rooting for Jurgen Klopp’s side to lift another Champions League title.
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Firstly, this Liverpool side is one of the greatest English football has ever produced. If City can not win a trophy, it reflects well on the Premier League and England that a domestic rival is challenging for these titles.
Liverpool, too, have been gracious in defeat this week regarding the Premier League. Klopp was full of honesty and praise for City in the immediate aftermath of the final day, with no hint of bitterness or rivalry. He later texted Ilkay Gundogan a message of congratulations, and captain Jordan Henderson also congratulated the Blues.
This is turning into one of the elite Premier League rivalries, but it is one based on plenty of mutual respect between the clubs and what they are achieving. The respect shown to City in recent days would surely be repaid if Liverpool lift the European Cup.
Then there is Guardiola’s own praise for Liverpool, and his reiteration that City wouldn’t have been able to reach the heights they have in the last five years without having such an intense rival pushing them all the way,
“I have never seen a team like Liverpool in my life,” he said on Sunday. “They have helped us to be a better team, season by season.”
In his press conference, he added: “Jurgen Klopp said a few days ago about the winners: there are few winners but a lot of triers. I love this concept. I’m a good trier. I’m going to say that Liverpool are they losers? What they have done in the Premier League in the last few years when there was a team that was one inch better than them but they are winners.
“Of course, in society there is just one winner and the rest are disasters. That is the wrong message for the new generation. You have to be a good trier and try every time and do it and not give up. Both teams, Liverpool and ourselves have done it in the last five years.
“What we did is that when the Premier League average was 82, 83 points average, now you need more than 90 in this leagues against these teams and managers and players, is quite remarkable. I said the same. How big is your rival your victory is higher and there are no doubts in this country about that. “
Raheem Sterling added: “Liverpool is a great opponent. Every year, they push us to the wire. This is why we can achieve things like this, it’s because of them. ”
Whenever he’s spoken about Liverpool, Guardiola has insisted that they have made City better and pushed them to their titles and trophies. If City drop below their high standards, Liverpool will be there to take a trophy off them. And if City slip up, Liverpool will be there.
So it could help City next season for Liverpool to win the Champions League to continue both sides’ hunt for greatness. Liverpool would have the belief that they can win the league next season, and City would react to that – as well as wanting to experience that Champions League success for themselves.
Even if it’s just to reinforce a mentality next year to reset and go again – especially with the strengthening of the squad with Erling Haaland – there are certainly ways for City to make the most of a Liverpool treble. It might require City fans to stay off social media for the weekend, but in the long term, Guardiola and City could benefit more if it’s Liverpool winning a seventh European Cup rather than Real Madrid winning a 14th.
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