On Friday, there was a politeness and polish about the two managers waiting for their date with the destination, making the days of press conference dark arts seem a distant memory.
& # 39; Anfield. We know exactly what it is, & # 39; Pep Guardiola said, after & # 39; he was asked to reflect on his biggest rival that & # 39; t the final of & # 39; reached the Champions League, in which he didn't want to compete.
& # 39; Thank you for an incredible spectacle, & # 39; was his message for Liverpool.
Manchester City is one point clear of Liverpool going on the last day of the campaign
Liverpool demand that City slip against Brighton if they have a chance at glory
We danced around these events in search of controversies to form a story for the game. But football has made all the calls in this extraordinary, titanic clash that reached its denial on Sunday with Liverpool, at home against Wolves, which requires City to glide at Brighton.
The numbers suggest that, on pure technical merit, the Guardiola site is the better: 30 more shots on goal, 1,874 more successful passes that reached the last third, 320 more touches and 69 more shots in & # 39; an opposition box.
The figures suggest that Pep Guardiola's side have been the better team
Jurgen Klopp & # 39; s Liverpool have taken more tackles and converted more big chances than City
And yet there is a symbolism that Liverpool have made 90 more tackles, 49 more of them won than City, in the course of a piece in which they also 7.37 per cent more of their big chances have known.
They have been the fighters in this fight: the heart-stopping team that has used the mind on it, over and over again with such goal makers, with all their might, to know that the next may not come soon.
Although Stutter & # 39; s mid-winter stutterer delivered one of the & # 39; s most memorable moments of the season – defeats against Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Leicester in 18 extraordinary December days – the signature events were so often to save Liverpool.
Jordan Pickford's 90th-minute error at Anfield's derby in early December and Hugo Lloris's slip-up at the same stadium at the end of March were monumental, as things have played out.
It is in this old unforgettable spirit – so tied to & # 39; the collectivist ethos of & # 39; the city of Liverpool – that doesn't make Jurgen Klopp and his site the favorite for many neutrals this weekend.
The 30th anniversary of Hillsborough disaster was highlighted last month and although fighting for justice makes everything on a football field a matter of little importance, many would consider the timing of a first Liverpool title since 1990 as deeply appropriate .
It's emblematic that James Milner, who left City, has been a talisman for Liverpool
The neutrals who support Liverpool also say City is a financial juggernaut built by Abu Dhabi petro dollars. This has been the season in which documents, published as part of Der Spiegel & # 39; s Football Leaks investigation, suggest that City owners have violated UEFA & # 39; s infringement rules by making payments to friendly corporations that & # 39; then that money funneled directly to City in the form of sponsorship.
City have refused to comment, but it looked rough, running against the grain of & # 39; the hottest football style of & # 39; e club. UEFA is conducting research. Liverpool needless to say, though not the same unintended amounts.
It seemed emblematic that James Milner, who left City to & # 39; t search for the best players in the world focused on him & # 39; e margins left, has emerged as an Anfield talisman: a blue-collar football player if there was one.
Others to whom you doubt the degrees made for Guardiola – Andrew Robertson, Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold – have become engaging characters in the story. It has helped Liverpool, like any other top-flight club, to be ready to enter the world.
They make pursuing player interviews less difficult. Klopp, unlike Guardiola, is also a source of fun. Guardiola said on Friday that Bernardo Silva has been his player of the season. & # 39; But I have no voice, & # 39; reflect it.
Phil Foden was bloodied, and contributed to another of & # 39; s hot moments this season, with his goal against Tottenham last month, followed by the overarching scripture that told the world he loves the bones of his home town club.
Raheem Sterling has been an exemplary figure this season both on and off the field
It has also been the season in which Raheem Sterling has emerged as a powerful and articulate presence in & # 39; the infernal fight against racism in & # 39; t game. Then, on Thursday, Sterling won the prize of "Football Writers". Received Association Player of the Year, he speaks for 20 minutes. Rarely has a recipient been willing to pull for so long. The neutrals who do not want City to win this award will all agree.
And no doubt echoing the words of one respondent in a recent BBC poll that didn't ask which of the two clubs people wanted to win the competition. & # 39; If Liverpool wins, we won't hear the last of them in 30 years! & # 39; he said.
For some, Liverpool are parading a sense of right that goes too far when it comes to the title. On a brick wall in central Liverpool is a gigantic Klopp mural alongside the words that & # 39; t the club uses: & # 39; We are Liverpool. This means more & # 39 ;.
Fans of rival clubs point it out as an example of self-mythologizing. Supporters of City, Manchester United and Everton ask what right Liverpool have for their success & # 39; more means & # 39 ;.
The supporters of & # 39; club argue that this was the passion forged in & # 39; the dark days of the 1980s after industrialization, when the club won trophies, even when the city was brought to its knees.
Guardiola saw Friday the more downbeat of & # 39; managers. Klopp exclaimed in his press conference in which he joked about the standard of his own English, the whereabouts of his water bottle and the air broadcast of a man who had just been partying to one of the # 39 ; the best moments in & # 39; football history & # 39; about he put it.
Guardiola scratched his neck, nodded in his chair and gave the appearance of an individual who still struggles to erase the Champions League elimination memory. to raise a head.
& # 39; You lose for one second and people say: & # 39; You are failing & # 39 ;, he reflected. & # 39; You judge it. I will not judge it that way. & # 39; He was right, of course.
The moments of sublimity of his own side seem to merge into one another this season, but they have generally not belonged to performances of supreme dominance. The 6-0 evisceration of Chelsea, of course, and – less memorably – a very extraordinary first few minutes at home against Arsenal in early February.
Town was the team that others feared the most, and they deserve to win the league
Liverpool & # 39; s forces of recovery and insecurity are the most exciting, will live longer in the spirit and will probably secure 97 points – enough to win the title in any Premier League, but the last. However, the champions of the country are neither the most durable nor the bravest, but simply the best in the course of nine months.
The team with the greatest technical capacity and depth that, silently and without ceremony, continues to win action. In the Bob Paisley era, it was how Liverpool won titles for years.
In 37 games, Guardiola's City was that team, the one that most scared the others to meet. It's Manchester City that doesn't deserve to lift the trophy on Sunday.