Jurgen Klopp has responded to Pep Guardiola's claims that Liverpool are the best team in the world right now by proclaiming Manchester City the worthy recipients of that moniker.
The two teams will square off in an eagerly anticipated encounter at the Etihad on Thursday night, with the Reds seven points clear of at the top of the Premier League table going into the fixture.
And, as quoted by the Guardian, the German was bullish in response to his colleague's comments, declaring: “It is one of the most difficult games you can play in the modern football world, away at City. We felt that plenty of times. It’s a really strong team with an outstanding manager.
"We have to be prepared as good as possible, we have to be brave, full of desire, angry – all that stuff, like in all the other games.
“The opponent, for me, is still the best team in the world. It’s 100% my opinion because of the way they play, the things they achieved, the ability and all that stuff. Nothing changed. Only the points changed but not the preparation for the game.”
When probed on Guardiola's comments, Klopp conceded: “I heard it. ‘In the moment’. Yes, with the record we had in December – I’m not sure if another team had a record like this in December – we are in a good moment.
"And we are a very good team as well so that’s why we have the amount of points but we prepare for one game. Would I say they are the best team in the world if nobody would ask me? No. But we talk about it. It sounds like we go there and we are more likely to win the game than they are. It’s just not true.”
“You have to ask Pep why he said it. If we would be 10 points behind then would my first thing after the game be to say: ‘We still will catch them!’ Of course not. It’s difficult with the qualities all the teams have but it’s just not important what happens.
"It’s the third of January, it’s a very important game for both teams and I would use it as motivation for the other team."
Liverpool have not beaten Man City away in the league since Jurgen Klopp's first season in charge, when they surprised the Sky Blues with a 4-1 victory, and Klopp was under no allusions as to the importance of the upcoming clash: “These kind of six-point games, it’s how it is, we play against each other and can pretty much go in all directions.
"It’s a motivation for them, 100%. They will be ready and we have to make sure we are ready, that’s all.”