Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have collectively changed English football by inspiring incredible standards over previously inconceivable periods.
Liverpool, should they be permitted to finish the current campaign after the coronavirus pandemic, could top Manchester City’s record 100-point total from two seasons ago.
While City trail by an enormous 25 points, they remain in a position to conquer Europe, should the Champions League ever resume, therefore flipping the roles of the sides from last season.
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This weekend was supposed to be the second meeting of the season between the two heavyweights at the Etihad.
Here, we consider the plethora of elite players who have played under these legendary managers and attempt to whittle the options down to form a line-up for each.
Jurgen Klopp XI
Alisson – Roman Weidenfeller was excellent, but not on the level of the Brazilian, who can claim to be the world’s best, though his deteriorating health is now becoming a concern.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – A playmaker from right-back, relishing the involvement and foundation the midfield provides him to impact the game in the final third, while still holding down his flank defensively.
Mats Hummels – One of the most composed and classy defenders of his generation.
Virgil van Dijk – Dominant, and while Liverpool bought the finished product from Southampton, Klopp still enabled him to emerge as the most important player in one of the greatest teams in European football history.
Andrew Robertson – Tireless effort up and down the flank with his overlapping providing the room for Sadio Mane to flourish as one of the world’s best.
Jordan Henderson – Leadership and commitment have enabled him to emerge as an indispensable part of Klopp’s greatest side, no matter what his detractors say. He is now proven on the biggest stage and in the biggest games.
Ilkay Gundogan – A master in setting the tempo, both speeding up that Dortmund side and pushing the pause button when necessary.
Mohamed Salah – He’s cooled off in the last few seasons since posting a staggering 44 goals in all competitions, yet the Egyptian remains one of Europe’s most dangerous wide forwards since his rapid development under Klopp.
Mario Gotze – His absence at Wembley was pivotal to the outcome of the 2013 Champions League final and his drastic decline following his controversial move to Bayern has caused amnesia for some. Sure, the injuries caught up with Gotze, too, but as a fearless 20-year-old operating as Dortmund’s No. 10, he was sublime.
Sadio Mane – Marco Reus off to the left under Klopp was a pleasure to watch, but Mane’s form for the Reds over the last year has elevated him towards Ballon d’Or status.
Robert Lewandowski – Roberto Firmino’s selfless role in this current Liverpool side cannot be underestimated, but Lewandowski led Dortmund to Wembley with some heroic displays in 2013, including the iconic four goals against Real Madrid.
Pep Guardiola XI
Victor Valdes – A close-run thing with Ederson, with both outstanding with the ball at their feet and able to beat the press and advance their side quickly with balls over the top or through the lines.
Dani Alves – Probably the greatest right-back of his era with a stunning delivery. A constant outlet and reliable option in possession.
Jerome Boateng – Maybe the toughest position to fill; while Carles Puyol extended his prime under Guardiola, Javier Mascherano emerged as a trusted centre-back and Aymeric Laporte has been outstanding amid a largely underwhelming collection of centre-backs at the Etihad. But Boateng was strong under Guardiola at a time when he was integral to a Germany side that won the World Cup.
Gerard Pique – Lured back to the Nou Camp after a brief stint in Manchester, the elegant centre-back would quickly emerge as a cornerstone to Guardiola’s revolution; comfort with the ball at his feet, but with the physicality to stamp his authority on any style of opponent who would cross his path.
David Alaba – Now able to influence the game in midfield or at centre-back, the Austrian proved to be excellent at left-back and one of the key components to a Bayern side that changed their philosophy under Guardiola.
Sergio Busquets – A metronome for tiki-taka, capable of receiving the ball under pressure and suffocating opponents with relentless, quick and incisive distribution.
Xavi – A passing master who was perhaps the epitome of Guardiola’s philosophy on the pitch, able to take any game over and set the tone for what would become a midfield-driven game for years to come.
Andres Iniesta – Beautifully complimented Xavi in probably the greatest midfield partnership as they schemed their way through Europe’s best. David Silva and Bernardo Silva, especially last season, make compelling cases to be in this team, though there cannot be any other combination.
David Villa – One of the most lethal strikers of a generation, yet his selflessness and willingness to thrive in a different role under Guardiola, shoved out wide on the wing, went a long way towards enabling what many consider the greatest club side of all time.
Lionel Messi – Redefined the game and previous limitations of what a creative player could achieve by scoring an absurd 126 goals in his last two seasons under Guardiola. Perhaps the greatest to ever do it at the peak of an extended peak in his role as the false No. 9.
Raheem Sterling – Another tough position to fill, as the third member of the attacking trident with plenty of other options, including Pedro, Arjen Robben and more. While Messi could have moved wide to make room for Samuel Eto’o, Sergio Aguero or Robert Lewandowski, for the reason outlined above he remains through the middle. This allows Sterling to come in from the left due to his consistency in this role and how his game has been transformed and lifted up several levels in the Guardiola system.
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