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Klopp and Guardiola set to face off again

It is the perfect year-ending treat: Liverpool versus Manchester City, two Premier League title challengers brimful of attacking, pass-and-move brio and full of goals duelling at high pace at one of England's noisiest and most storied venues.

'If I wasn't sitting on the bench, I would buy a ticket!' boomed Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp.

In pursuit of Chelsea, who have been making serene, faultless progress, second- placed Liverpool and Pep Guardiola's City may feel this is a match they simply must win.

A draw would not be much use to either with the prospect of Chelsea, who should make it 13 wins in a row against Stoke City earlier in the afternoon, ending the year eight points clear of Liverpool and nine ahead of City.

It is not a slight on Antonio Conte's leaders to suggest Liverpool and City are, on their day, the most dazzling teams in the division but their problem remains that no-one can be confident when that day will be.

Will we see the Liverpool who eviscerated Stoke City 4-1 to chill the bones of a very cold-looking, flat-capped but suitably impressed Guardiola at Anfield on Monday?

Or the Liverpool who looked as if they couldn't defend to save their lives as they twice surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 4-3 at humble Bournemouth earlier in the month.

Likewise, will it be the crisp Guardiola machine that made his old Barcelona charges look lost at the Etihad in the Champions League? Or the hapless, strangely dispirited bunch who were crushed at struggling Leicester City recently.

'There are a lot of games to come but it is the most important game I can imagine against an outstanding, strong team,' Klopp conceded.

'The advantage is that it's at Anfield. We must try to use this. It will be really difficult for both teams but I'm really looking forward to it. We love playing against the best.

'This is a very big game for both of us. Six clubs fight for four positions or one position. Each game is kind of a final.'

For the moment, these sides remain two thrilling but inconsistent works in progress, the heaviest scorers in the league with 84 goals - Liverpool 45, City 39 - between them.

Yet a win on Saturday would mean a fourth league victory in succession for one of them, offering crucial momentum to propel them into the New Year.

Reuters