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Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp wants his players to know Manchester City are 'still best team in world'

Manager keen to dial down hype around clash between Premier League leaders and reigning champions

Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp are proving they are the team to beat in the Premier League at the moment. Phil Noble / Reuters
Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp are proving they are the team to beat in the Premier League at the moment. Phil Noble / Reuters

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted Manchester City remain the best team in the world ahead of their crunch clash at Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

The Reds go into the meeting with a seven-point lead over their title rivals at the top of the Premier League.

Klopp was keen to push aside the hype, saying he saw it "as a normal game against Manchester City".

He added: "A very difficult one, one of the most difficult games you can play in the modern football world. We felt that plenty of times. It's a really strong football team with an outstanding manager.

"We have to be prepared as good as possible, we have to be brave, we have to be full of desire, angry, like in all the other games.

"But with the knowledge the opponent is, for me, still the best team in the world. Only the points changed, not the preparation for the game."

Klopp and Pep Guardiola have both talked up the strength of their opposition, with the City manager returning the compliment by hailing Liverpool as the world's premier side.

"He said, 'in the moment'," Klopp said. "Yes, with the record we had in December, we had a good moment and we have a very, very, very good football team.

"That's why we have the amount of points, that's why we had the results. But we prepare for one game.

"A couple of weeks ago we were a point behind and then [the talk] was if we lose, then it's four points, can you close that gap. It's all only talk. It has nothing to do with the reality.

"A big part of the football world is talking about it before it happens. But we are there to let it happen. We are very excited because it's a very interesting game, we're looking forward to it, but apart from that it's a normal situation."

Liverpool go into the clash having won three of the last four meetings between the sides but their last league trip to the Etihad ended in a 5-0 defeat last September.

Guardiola has already labelled it a must-not-lose game for his team, stating the title race would be finished should City slip 10 points adrift.

Klopp expects the situation to fire up City, saying: "If we would be 10 points behind, would the first thing I say be, 'We'll catch them'. Of course not, it's difficult with the qualities all the teams have.

"But it's January 3. It's a very, very important game for both teams, obviously. I would use it as motivation for the other team. They will be ready and we have to make sure we are ready."

Liverpool remain unbeaten in the league having dropped just six points this season and go into the match on a nine-match winning streak.

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Klopp highlighted the run to last season's Uefa Champions League final, which they lost to Real Madrid, as the moment when a switch flicked.

"I think we got rid, finally, of the backpack when we reached the Champions League final," he said.

"We didn't win it, yes, but not 20 teams in the past reached the Champions League final. That was the moment when we did something really special. Since then it feels different."

While City wait on Kevin de Bruyne, Klopp must decide whether to throw in James Milner, who missed the Boxing Day win over Newcastle with a minor muscle injury and returned to full training on Tuesday.

"He's very, very important for us, of course," said Klopp. "His influence on the team is massive."

Updated: January 2, 2019 08:11 PM

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