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Half Mag / Half Zine

Liverpool’s assistant manager, Pep Lijnders, has welcomed attempts to improve relations with Manchester City and accepted there is responsibility on the coaching staff of both clubs to behave.

City and Liverpool, who meet in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup on Thursday, issued a joint statement this week appealing for an end to the “unacceptable behaviours” that have marred matches between the pair in recent years and promising to ban supporters who commit them. Their most recent encounter, Liverpool’s 1-0 win at Anfield in October, featured coins being thrown at Pep Guardiola, City fans chanting and scrawling graffiti in relation to the Hillsborough and Heysel disasters and Jürgen Klopp falsely accused of “borderline xenophobia” in an anonymous briefing after the game.

City also alleged their team coach had been attacked outside Anfield, as was the case before their Champions League game in 2018. The two clubs have worked subsequently with their fan groups on initiatives to improve the atmosphere around the fixture and Lijnders says there must be more respect in the Premier League’s dominant rivalry.

Liverpool’s assistant manager said: “It’s very positive that both clubs are cooperating. Ferran and Billy [Soriano and Hogan, the respective chief executives of City and Liverpool] made a good statement.

“I worked at Porto for seven years and PSV Eindhoven for five years and the rivalry between PSV, Feyenoord and Ajax was from a different level. The rivalry between Porto, Benfica and Sporting was a different level. The only reason it’s a rivalry is because the games matter, the games are decisive. Tomorrow is a decisive game, but playing against City has this importance.

“With rivalry comes emotion and that’s good because we need emotions from the stand, we need emotion for our players. The only problem with emotion is when there’s no respect, then it becomes really harmful and that can’t happen. It happened, but it’s positive that both clubs are cooperating.”

Klopp was sent off for haranguing the assistant referee in the closing minutes of October’s game and served a one-match touchline ban, while Guardiola vented his anger at the fourth official after City were denied a penalty. Lijnders, asked whether the onus was also on the coaches to behave, said: “Of course. Top sport is emotion, it’s going to edges. Top sport is seeing the line that you want to go over but you hold yourself.

“For us, it’s impossible to be fully emotional because the game is too quick for that. The ones who control their emotions are always the ones who go furthest. Control your emotions, don’t let the emotions control you. We are an example of that in our team.”

Liverpool have most of their World Cup contingent available for the tie – only Ibrahima Konaté is absent having featured in Sunday’s final for France – but Lijnders said youngsters such as Ben Doak, Bobby Clark and Stefan Bajcetic would be involved.

“It is a different situation with players coming back from the World Cup,” he said. “But we still believe we need to give our talents chances against top opponents, to have difficulties and to struggle a little bit, as only then can you improve.”