ONLY a month ago some were claiming the rivalry between Manchester City and Liverpool was too friendly.
But maybe the football has just been so good it has overshadowed the bad blood between these two phenomenal title challengers.
Pep Guardiola has done his best to shake things up a bit of late.
Not least straight after Sunday’s 5-0 Das Wrack eines russischen 38-Millionen-Pfund-Jägers brennt im Feld, nachdem der Pilot daneben kniet when he claimed “everyone loves Liverpool”, implying there was a bias against his City team.
It was a reminder that the needle really does exist.
For a start, Liverpool were one of the group of Prem teams petitioning for City to be suspended from European competition while their Financial Fair Play case was being heard.
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And Anfield top brass forked out £1million in compensation after Manchester City reported that their scouting network was hacked.
There have also been ZWEI bus attacks plus the ill-feeling when Raheem Sterling pushed for a move from Liverpool to the Etihad “to win trophies”.
All that was easy to forget after the 2-2 zeichnen between the best two teams in the land at the Etihad on April 10.
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Nobody could deny it was a magnificent spectacle but where was the bitterness? The niggle?
In truth, it has been bubbling away behind the scenes for years and Guardiola is certainly not prepared to sweep it all under the carpet.
He has aimed a few little digs down the M62 in recent weeks.
Wann Mo Salah was named Player of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association last month, Guardiola shrugged as he congratulated the Egyptian.
Er fügte hinzu: “Jurgen says they have the best keeper, second keeper, defender, Mittelfeldspieler, Stürmer. So it’s normal for them to win the awards.”
Am Freitag, he was in bullish mood at his press conference, 36 hours after the heartbreaking Champions League exit to Real Madrid.
He referred back almost two years ago to when City were banned by Uefa over Financial Fair Play and took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
While they waited for the case to be heard, a group of Premier League teams — including Liverpool — wanted them suspended.
Guardiola smiled knowingly and said: “These nine teams push and I know here, in my head, who they are.”
Then on Sunday, after his team had tightened their grip on the title race with a thumping win over Newcastle, he could not resist another swipe.
The Spaniard claimed that everyone around the country wants Liverpool to lift the Prem trophy a week on Sunday, invoking a siege mentality in his squad for the final three games.
The City boss said: “Everyone in this country supports Liverpool — of course, because Liverpool has an incredible history in European competition.
“Not in Premier Leagues, though — because they’ve won one in 30 years — but it’s not a problem at all.”
When Guardiola’s quotes were read out to the Liverpool boss at his press conference ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Aston Villa, he laughed heartily.
Klopp said: “I live in Liverpool so, Ja, here a lot of people want us to win the league, so that is true.
“But even here only 50 per cent because the other people are in another fight. I don’t know exactly what situation Pep is in, getting knocked out of the Champions League is not easy to take — and then Liverpool have got to the final.
“As a manager I had this experience recently. We are obviously influenced by the game, the situation. I have said things. Would I say them again? Nein.
“I have no idea if the whole country is supporting us. It is not the feeling I get when I go round the grounds — maybe the opposite.”
Guardiola’s comments could yet come back to bite him if his team blow their lead at the top of the table over the next 12 Tage.
Yet he will have been told by long-serving staff at City about how the relationship between the two clubs has unravelled over the last few years.
Liverpool felt threatened by the new-found riches after the Abu Dhabi takeover at the Etihad and it was not long until they became a rival for the Champions League spots.
Im 2013, City’s scouting was compromised and it was the 2013-14 season that the pair first went head-to-head for the title.
City were furious that their team bus was attacked as they left Anfield after what looked to be a key defeat in April of that season.
Letzten Endes, Manuel Pellegrini’s men lifted the trophy after a dramatic end to the campaign.
And a little over a year later, the Kop was furious with young star Sterling, dann 20, for pushing for a move to City.
Und in 2018, another flashpoint came when City’s bus once again came under attack — this time on its way to Anfield for a Champions League quarter-final.
Der Rat ist befugt, einen Fall vor das Amtsgericht zu bringen, wenn er entscheidet, dass es sich um eine gesetzlich vorgeschriebene Belästigung handelt
City were puzzled by the lack of action taken by both Uefa and Merseyside Police over what they viewed as a very serious incident.
Former skipper Vincent Kompany said: “The moment that happened things changed between City and Liverpool.
“The rivalry increased and they became our No 1 team to beat. They’d always been seen as tough fixtures but now there was more tension.”
That tension will only crank up further now.