By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Manchester City’s rivalry with Liverpool is pushing them to even greater heights but the Premier League champions need European success, former City and England defender Micah Richards told Reuters.
Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool, who are undefeated for 11 months and 29 Premier League games, lost only one league encounter last season — a 2-1 defeat at City, who then pipped them to the title by a point.
The Merseyside club are European champions and top the Premier League by eight points, as they look to end a three-decade wait for a domestic league title.
Yet Pep Guardiola’s City, who are currently fourth in the table and nine points adrift, have won the past two Premier League titles and Richards anticipates another tense battle to the finish line with Liverpool.
“They have stabilised the team a lot. I think Klopp’s a big part of that,” Richards, who is in India as part of City’s trophy tour, said in an interview.
“And what I like a lot about Liverpool is that they are pushing City to be greater.
“When you win things it’s because normally someone’s pushing you. Healthy rivalry with Liverpool can only be good for Man City.
“Liverpool are a good team, European winners and respect to them. But we have won the Premier League twice in a row. So, in terms of consistency Man City are a better team, we just need to get that last one in Europe now just to show everyone.”
Guardiola’s team won an unprecedented domestic treble last season but Europe remains the final frontier left to conquer.
City have reached one Champions League semi-final but were knocked out in the quarters by Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the last two seasons.
Richards, who won the Premier League and the FA Cup with City, feels the Champions League is a difficult trophy to win but the Manchester club are on the right track.
“Clubs have been doing it for years and years, we got into the Champions League in 2010,” the 31-year-old said before launching a community football project in Mumbai as part of the club’s Cityzens Giving campaign.
“We can’t just expect to win everything. Everything’s a process, we are on right track. And we just need the cherry on the top with the Champions League. But there’s no rush in terms of we need it now, now, now because Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Richards, who was England’s youngest-ever defender when he made his debut at the age of 18, said City have been desperately unlucky with injuries to key defensive personnel this season but advised against panic buying in the winter transfer window.
He was confident Liverpool could still be caught.
“Nine points in November is not impossible to bring back. We’ve got a tougher challenge on our hands but we like a challenge,” he said. “We just need to focus on ourselves and make sure we win our games. And come May, we’ll see.”
Klopp has in the past hailed his City counterpart Guardiola as the best manager in the world and Richards said he would have wanted to be a part of the Spaniard’s team.
“People always ask me why Pep is the best. I think he’s the best because he spends so much time off the field, he’s a perfectionist,” he said. “It’s not luck … It’s hard work, his determination.
“What he’s done last two years in winning the league, record points and stuff like that. We’ve had some great managers, Alex Ferguson, (Arsene) Wenger, (Jose) Mourinho, but for me Pep took it to the next level.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Toby Davis)