Guardiola and Klopp’s antithesis remains intriguing

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MANCHESTER — Watching Manchester City vs. Liverpool was like listening to Pavarotti and Kiss. At the same time.

Fluid, patient, possession-based soccer vs. direct, pacey, thunderous soccer. Man City vs. Liverpool. Pep Guardiola vs. Jurgen Klopp.

Guardiola and Klopp, two of the most talented managers on the planet, are the antithesis of one another.

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Before Saturday’s game defending seemed optional, as it always has done, for both of these managers. However, despite their clear attacking philosophies they both have vastly different ways to attack and, most importantly for them both, entertain.

Saturday’s meeting at the Etihad didn’t disappoint with goals but it certainly wasn’t the finely poised, end-to-end encounter we expected.

Guardiola’s men beat the 10-men of Liverpool 5-0 after Sadio Mane‘s red card in the first half helped swing the game in City’s favor.

In the 11 games they’ve managed against one another their record now reads five wins each and one draw. Stalemate. Yes, Klopp suffered his worst defeat as Liverpool boss on Saturday but Guardiola took little comfort in inflicting a painful defeat.

Stood on the edge of their respective boxes during the sunshine and showers at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, their intensity is similar. That said, they celebrated and despised completely different things on the sidelines.

Pep, dressed like a waiter at a beach club in white sneakers and a blue sweater, knelt down and held his head in disbelief when possession was given away cheaply early on as he waved his team wide like a composed conductor. Klopp, in his bright red trainers and black tracksuit, winced in agony when his team missed the chance to clip a long ball over the top.

The way they act on the sidelines vastly differs, with Jurgen Klopp joking with Man City fans as they complained Sadio Mane had taken a dive to win a free kick. He responded by taking off his glasses and offering them to said fan. Meanwhile Guardiola was more serious, arms folded and ushering over his players for a stern chat when he could, even as the goals poured in.

Even after the crushing defeat the respect remained. Guardiola didn’t rub further salt into Klopp’s wounds.

“It was one game at 11v11, it was equal, we both had chances, but the game was equal. Liverpool are so quick and fast,” Guardiola said. “After 10v11 it was a little bit easier for us, and we played the second half the way we wanted to. They didn’t do well. The game was open until the sending-off.”

Klopp seemed to agree with Guardiola. Finally, something similar.

“We had all we needed at 11v11. We had chances. The first goal is unnecessary, we were too laid back, not too smart. But the decisive decision in the whole game was the red card. I don’t think it was a red card, Sadio didn’t see the goalkeeper,” Klopp said. “It’s unlucky, an accident. The keeper comes out. You want to go for the ball. I hope people see it for what it is.”

What we can see is that neither has the “right way” to manage a team or situations but both are revered.

In an age where teams often play 4-3-3 and bunker in as a 4-5-1 for most of the game before launching counters when they can, Liverpool and Man City offer something totally different. They take risks, but in different ways.

“Both teams were not compact enough,” Klopp said. “We cannot have these situations [attacking] if City would have defended perfectly. You can defend not perfectly and still win 5-0. We were not compact enough.”

Yes, the spectacle took a hit on Saturday following Mane’s red card but Guardiola and Klopp are delivering on their promises and their flaws remain the same.

At heart they are both entertainers and that’s why they don’t only respect one another but are also revered around the world for their approach. They may not always be perfect but they are true to their vastly contrasting philosophies.

Seeing it all play out on one pitch is, like Klopp and Guardiola, both manic and beautiful. At the same time.