First, on Sunday, the teams will meet in the Premier League at the Etihad, in a game that will likely decide England’s next champion. Next Saturday, they will face off again, this time at Wembley in the semifinals of the F.A. Cup. Both matches may well prove a prelude to a third, altogether more epochal meeting: Liverpool and City are favorites to reach the Champions League final on May 28 in Paris.
The parallel with those 18 days in Spain, of course, is not perfect. Manchester City and Liverpool have fostered a fierce rivalry in recent years, but it lacks the depth and the context of the clásico. Its tendrils do not stretch back decades, nor is it bound up with questions of politics and history and, particularly, national identity.
Likewise, Guardiola and Klopp do not have the same combustible chemistry that Guardiola and Mourinho did. It would be a stretch to say they are friends, but, almost a decade after they first ran into each other in Germany, they remain cordial. In 2020, Guardiola called Klopp in the small hours of the morning to congratulate him on winning the Premier League. Klopp describes Guardiola as the best coach in the world at every opportunity.
Many of the other ingredients, though, are present. Just as with Real Madrid and Barcelona, everything rides on games between these two clubs. One of these teams will win the Premier League. One of them will go into the F.A. Cup final as the heavy favorite. Only Bayern Munich might be considered a peer in the Champions League.
Both coaches have done what they can to quash the idea, but both are perceived as chasing multiples of glory: City, a domestic and European treble, last achieved by an English team in 1999; and Liverpool, an unprecedented and, in reality, improbable sweep of all four trophies available to them. Their meetings are, in that light, the whole ballgame.