Pep Guardiola has done a fine job of irritating the Liverpool fanbase ahead of the weekend's Premier League fixtures - by claiming Aymeric Laporte is the "best left-sided centre back in Europe" right now.
Guardiola was speaking ahead of Manchester City's Premier League clash with Brighton on Saturday, as City look to keep the pressure on the Reds at the top of the table. Liverpool boast a perfect record so far, winning three from three, while City dropped points in their first home game of the season in the draw with Tottenham.
The two teams are expected to battle it out for the title over the course of the season - just like last year - and both will be reliant on retaining their excellent defensive records to give them a solid base to play off. It's blindingly obvious how good both teams are in attack, but that goes without saying.
Pep praised Laporte, who arrived from Athletic Club in January 2018, in his Friday press conference, and even went as far as to stake the claim above. But Liverpool supporters cottoned on to his comments pretty quickly, taking the very first opportunity to correct the two-time Premier League champion. Because, after all, Virgil van Dijk exists.
Guardiola says Laporte is the best left-sided centre-back in Europe right now— Sam Lee (@SamLee) August 30, 2019
It's not clear whether Pep was just joshing, whether he'd forgotten about Big Virg, or whether he was playing some mind games, but whatever the intentions it's certainly a bold statement.
Van Dijk scooped the UEFA award for Best Men's Player in the Champions League last season on Thursday and helped Liverpool to win the tournament itself back in June, while he's the frontrunner to win the Ballon d'Or.
Still, that doesn't bother Pep.
Guardiola also touched on a number of other matters ahead of the Brighton game, providing injury updates on John Stones and Gabriel Jesus (he's confident they'll be back for the next Premier League fixture against Norwich) and sharing his thoughts on Kyle Walker's omission from the England squad.
Walker was overlooked on Thursday for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Man Utd's Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Kieran Trippier, now of Atletico Madrid. Separate, conflicting reports have suggested Gareth Southgate has assured Walker of his position as the country's number one right back, with another stating that it's in fact the Liverpool man who'll retain the position moving forward.
On Walker, via the Independent, Guardiola said: “I was a little bit surprised at first.
“I’m not involved. We’ll respect the decision. Kyle is coming back stronger. I understand him and support Gareth.
“I’m pretty sure the players want to go to the national team. It’s happened, so we adapt. We have time with our family now with the international break. Come back and play as best as possible to come back to the national team.”
City kick off at 3pm on Saturday at home to Brighton, while Liverpool face a tough trip to Burnley at 5:30pm.