Pep Guardiola has shrugged off Jurgen Klopp’s claim that Liverpool are still ‘Rocky Balboa not Ivan Drago’ by saying that he has learned to live with the pressure of being title favourites during nine years as a coach.
City kick off the new season at Arsenal on Sunday strongly tipped to become back-to-back champions, with Liverpool second favourites.
Despite spending £250million on new players in 2018, Klopp believes City are still the team to beat and used the Rocky IV film to emphasise his point.
Pep Guardiola responded to claims by Jurgen Klopp that Liverpool remain underdogs this year
The Manchester City boss insisted he is used to ‘the favourites tag’ after nine years as a boss
Despite spending £250m on new players in 2018, Klopp believes Liverpool remain underdogs
‘The champions Manchester City did not lose any player and brought in (Riyad) Mahrez, so it doesn’t make them weaker,’ Klopp said earlier on Friday at his press conference.
‘They are top quality. We are still Rocky Balboa, not Ivan Drago. We are the ones who have to do more, fight more, and that must be our attitude.’
Guardiola responded to Klopp’s ‘favourites’ assertion by saying: ‘Thank you, Jurgen. For nine years I’ve lived with that situation, it’s no problem. For nine years, except the first year when I arrived (as a coach) and people in Barcelona didn’t like I was a manager. Since then, we won the Treble every season and were the favourites.
‘So we are the favourites. Thank you, Jurgen, you are so kind.’
Klopp opted for the analogy of underdog Balboa (left) against Rocky IV favourite Drago
City are trying to be the first club since Manchester United in 2009 to win successive titles
No club has won successive titles since Manchester United in 2009 and Guardiola added: ‘It’s a challenge but that’s not the target. It’s to win on Sunday, then Huddersfield and Wolves.
‘If we play well we have a chance to repeat. If we are going to win, we have to prepare to be better.
WHAT DOES ROCKY BALBOA VS IVAN DRAGO MEAN?
Ivan Drago is a fictional character in the 1985 film Rocky IV, in which he is Rocky Balboa’s rival and the main antagonist.
Drago has a 100-1 amateur record and is considered to be one of the best fighters – the favourite.
The Soviet Union fighter easily takes down Balboa’s friend Apollo Creed before Balboa himself – an underdog – gets in the ring to fight him.
‘It would be a big mistake to think about last season or we are going to win. The best way is the training session, next game and then the next one. We’ll see at the end of the table. Don’t think too much about back-to-back, defending the title. The main thing is to improve and then we’ll see.
‘I like to work with these guys, I enjoy it. It’s a happy dressing-room, they’re excellent human beings. Being together is a nice process.’
Asked if he is concerned that City have only signed Riyad Mahrez for £60m this summer and missed out on a new midfielder, he said: ‘They show me in two seasons, the last one especially, that we can trust them. We have a good squad. I said it last season many times that we cannot spend what we did last season every year.
‘Back then, we had seven or eight players of 30 or 31 years old. I said maybe one or two but we don’t have more money to spend, we could not spend more than we have done this season. It’s simple like that. Maybe next season we’ll be more active, it depends, we spent a lot with the young players for next season.’
On Mahrez, he added: ‘He’s settled quite well, he knows the Premier League, that’s a good thing. Today the players connect immediately when a new player arrives. The guys here introduced him easily, he knew (Benjamin) Mendy and some others. In two or three days he was just another guy, part of the group.’
But when asked on the title, Guardiola merely said: ‘It’s a challenge but that’s not the target’
Guardiola is unconcerned that his squad has only seen the arrival of Riyad Mahrez (right)
After missing out on Napoli playmaker Jorginho, City were hoping that Douglas Luiz – who spent last season loan at sister club Girona – could be brought in to fill the gap left by Yaya Toure’s departure.
GUARDIOLA’S TROPHY CABINET AS A BOSS
La Liga: 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11
Spanish Cup: 2008-09, 2011-12
Champions League: 2008-09, 2010-11
UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011
FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011
BAYERN MUNICH (GERMANY)
Bundesliga: 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16
German Cup: 2013-14, 2015-16
UEFA Super Cup: 2013
FIFA Club World Cup: 2013
MANCHESTER CITY (ENGLAND)
League Cup: 2017-18
Premier League: 2017-18
Community Shield: 2018-19
However, the £10.7m Brazilian has been denied a work permit and Guardiola is angry at the late decision.
‘He’s not allowed,’ said the City boss. ‘We are going to try to help him to go on loan again and try to get the work permit. It’s so difficult for me to understand. One guy who doesn’t see the player or any training sessions every day has to judge if he has the ability and quality to play.
‘I accept the rules but I don’t understand because anybody in the world can work wherever he wants. The manager from Brazil and myself know more than the guys who decide he is not able to play.
‘I am so sad and disappointed for Douglas because he could help us, play with us. He has shown many good things in training sessions and the reason why we spent a lot of money to buy him is because he is a player with a huge capacity to play with us.
‘We decided on the work permit because we believe he can play because it is stupid to say he won’t play. When we decided to keep him for Manchester City, it is because we believe he has the capacity.
‘I would have preferred it if it wasn’t announced yesterday. If they decide the rules are the rules, let me know 15 days ago and maybe we can decide what we can do.
‘But one day before and you decide he can’t play because I don’t know, he’s not tall enough, doesn’t play enough, games in the past or something like that, okay.’
Despite being unable to replace Luiz, Guardiola is glad the transfer window is closed.
He said: ‘I prefer it that way, when we start the other leagues can buy our player, in England now you don’t have time to react. The ideal situation is everyone finishes at the same time. It’s what it is. It’s the first time we adjust it and maybe we can review it but I like to start the Premier League with the players I’ve got for the season, not after three of four games.’
Douglas Luiz was denied a work permit and Guardiola says he is ‘sad’ for the young player
Kevin De Bruyne is back and ready for action which is a boost ahead of taking on Arsenal
Guardiola has Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne available to face Arsenal after both players returned from the World Cup and a holiday in peak condition this week.
‘Raheem and Kevin arrived quite well,’ said Guardiola. ‘Three weeks off is not too much time after the World Cup and both arrived in the perfect way. Sterling was fit in four or five days, he’s not a big guy who needs training – he’s sharp so it’s easy.
‘Kevin arrived in the perfect way. He’s going to be a father for the second time, he must look after his wife – that’s why he came back in a perfect way.’
Unai Emery will be in the opposite dugout when Cit go to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday and Guardiola said: ‘He’s an excellent manager, what he achieved at Seville, three Europa Leagues in a row. It’s excellent, good for the Premier League he’s here.’