Attack, attack, attack, have the ball, dance with it, make it a shield and a weapon, create fantasy, a story on the lawn, celestial blue dragons from Manchester City, red beasts from Liverpool, some throw fire with Kevin De Bruyne and his legion, others throw thorns with Luis Díaz and his courtand both attack, destroy, do not know anything else, or is what they know best, crush with passes, set fire with goals, poison with football, and this Sunday that pair of monsters go out to the same field, under the same sky (10 :30 am ESPN TV), with only one point away in favor of City, and if it is not a final – there are 7 dates left, 21 points – it seems so. Let the ball roll. Let the show begin.
There are games that promise, there are games that excite, there are games that do not disappoint before, during or after, they are games like this, when those who play are such artists, those who dominate England and threaten Europe, those who fight for the English crown . Pair of celestial or demonic armies. Over there they call it a derby, here we call it classic, but it’s the same all over the world, the most important game of the season in England, because whoever wins at City’s home is unlikely to drop such loot.
It is the Manchester City led by Pep Guardiola, the Guardiola of methodical strategy, with his lucid and aesthetic play, a painting in motion, that of 10, 15, 40 passes or as many as are necessary to end in a goal, in a nice goal And it is the Liverpool in which Jürgen Klopp ‘rocks’, with his omnipresent and suffocating attack, that of 6.5 or 4 passes or the least necessary to reach the goal, another beautiful goal. It will be the biggest challenge for both of them. A duel of spear against spear. Whose ball will it be? Who owns it now? What will they do with it when they have it or when they don’t? Who will command the field? To send someone?
Manchester City is not invulnerable, in the last five games in England they had 3 wins, a draw and a loss. In addition, he suffered to the point of despair to beat Atlético de Madrid this week in the Champions League. Perhaps the dragon is just taking a nap and waiting for Liverpool to add a dose of drama to his feat of wanting to conquer the Premier League again. Maybe he’s about to wake up. Liverpool, which at the beginning of the year did not know, did not imagine or did not believe that it was going to catch up with its towering rival in light blue, there it is now, just one point away, it threatens it and scares it.
That both are powerful is not verse. The verses are the ones that spring up on the field when they play and advance and play. Manchester City has the most valued payroll in the world, with 950 million euros, according to the Transfermarkt portal. Liverpool is the second most valuable payroll in England and third in the world, with 900 million euros, above Chelsea (852), Bayern Munich (804) or Real Madrid (756).
City have Sterling, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Grealish, Gabriel Jesús… Liverpool have Salah, Mané, Firmino, Díaz… Between the two squads they add up to a value of 1,859 million euros. That’s worth almost 8 Colombian leagues. So today will be a duel galaxy against galaxy, celestial sky against red hell, or red sky against celestial hell, that in this challenge it is not known who is closer to the gods.
Diaz, in full splendor
And among the stars is Luis Díaz, the 25-year-old Colombian who dazzles game by game and who plays as if he had always been on that team, as if his birthplace had been red from Liverpool, as if he had been born speaking English, although he still does not He speaks it. Díaz, always quiet, always simple, Díaz and his eternal good morning face. But that calm air of I wasn’t there is only the first threat of it. On the field, Díaz bursts in, destroys, becomes brave, makes passes that do not require dialogue, scores goals that he sings as goals are sung, like this, goool!, in English and in Spanish. And then everyone looks at him and realizes that his face is that of I was.
Liverpool was already a devastating team without Díaz, for a reason they have not lost in the Premier League since December 28 of last year, against Leicester. But now, and this is not a patriotic license, he seems stronger, with a reinforced attack, with an attack that has gained speed, dexterity and irreverence. Liverpool did not take a luxury substitute, they took a luxury starter. And since Diaz arrived, that team doesn’t know what it’s like to even draw in the Premier League. Just wins. That’s how he squeezed City and put it between sword and sword. Because if he beats him, he will go on to command the championship and poor Pep and his team if that happens.
Pep and Klopp, the brains of the game
They are obsessed with victory. But not victory as it may be. But of the victory deserved, the victory worked, the victory designed. The game ideas of these teams arise in the heads of these two men from the technical line, one is called Pep, the other is called Klopp. The first was an elegant footballer. The second was not so much. But both represent the modernity of football, of strategy: that exercise of placing players on the field and giving them certain instructions so that what shines individually, shines collectively. Pep says that he did not invent this game, that what he believes are “stupid tactics”. Before facing Atlético in the Champions League, he joked and said that after much thought, he was going to innovate: “I’m going to play with 12”.
Therefore, he believes that he should not have the leading role of those who do work to execute on the court. But in his false modesty he cannot hide that from his thoughts, from that tangle that is woven between his neurons, the game that his team imposes on the field arises.
Pep graduated in Barcelona, evolved in Germany, did a doctorate in England. And he never tires of winning. They all look at him carefully. The fans, the rivals, the press. The world of football watches him as if he was actually the one who is going to enter to score the winning goal. The Brazil National Team, which dominated the South American qualifying round for the Qatar World Cup at will and has Tite on the bench, says it wants Pep, and wants him soon. And he hides the wake of him. The Friday before facing Liverpool, he confessed that Klopp is his new great rival, before it was José Mourinho, and what battles, how morbid, what a duel of styles and game and off-game philosophies was that, but now, says Pep, his rival is Klopp, and he admires him.
“Jürgen, as a coach, has been the biggest rival I have ever had in my career and I think that what the two teams are proposing is good for football. I will remember my time here when I am retiring playing golf, I will remember that my biggest rival was Liverpool, that’s for sure”, said Pep, the same one who has won 31 titles as a coach, the same one who has already won the Premier League three times.
And Klopp, who has only won one, responded with a sentence that is not ironic at all, but real, honest: “Guardiola is the best coach in the world and we all agree on that.”
Pep radiates elegance, his tailored suit, his shiny shoes, and his shaved head so as not to cloud his magical ideas. Klopp demonstrates simplicity, sweatshirt and tennis shoes, and a hat so that the ideas, also magical, do not escape him. They are the brains of these two teams, the ones who devise tactics that don’t have names yet, tactics like secrets.
So it remains to wait for Sunday to arrive, for the referee to whistle, for the ball to move, for the celestial dragons to throw fire and the red beasts to throw thorns. The battle seems infinite. Let’s see how it ends. Ready? Let the show begin.
Editor of THE TIME
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