Jurgen Klopp maintains Manchester City are "the best team in the world" despite his Liverpool side holding a seven-point lead over the defending Premier League champions going into Thursday's blockbuster top-of-the-table clash.
Victory at the Etihad Stadium for the Reds would be seen by many as a huge step towards them dethroning City - who have stumbled in December - and lifting a first league title since 1990.
However, Klopp took a dim view of suggestions this is the defining game of the season and his opinion of City's status in world football has not been altered by Liverpool leapfrogging them in the league table.
"It's a normal game against Manchester City, a very difficult one, one of the most difficult games you can play in the modern football world, away at City. It's a really strong football team with an outstanding manager and that's how it is when you play them," Klopp told a media conference.
"You have to prepare as good as possible, we have to be brave, we have to be full of desire, angry again, like in all the other games. We have to be that, but with the knowledge that the opponent is, for me, still the best team in the world.
"That's how it is. I said it weeks ago because it's 100 per cent my opinion because of how they play, all the things they achieved, they will achieve and all that stuff, so nothing changed. Only the points changed but not the preparation for the game."
City manager Pep Guardiola recently described Liverpool as the best side in the world, and when asked about those comments Klopp replied: "He said 'in the moment', with the record we had in December. I'm not sure if another team had a record like this in December, I don't know. We are in a good moment, 100 per cent, we are a very, very, very good football team as well.
6 - The most points per game by clubs in the top four tiers of English football in 2018:
Liverpool - 2.38
Manchester City - 2.38
Tottenham Hotspur - 2.24
Manchester United - 1.95
Luton Town - 1.91
Accrington Stanley - 1.87
Leaders. pic.twitter.com/40AC6j0AAQ — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 31, 2018
"That's why we have the amount of points, that's why we have the results, that's 100 per cent clear. Would I say they're the best team in the world if nobody would ask me? No. But we talk about it, it sounds like we have to go there and we are the more likely to win the game than them, it's just not true."
City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is back in training after another absence, having dealt with two knee ligament issues and Klopp said of the Belgium international: "We can't specially prepare for Kevin De Bruyne.
"Missing a player like Kevin De Bruyne is a massive blow, unbelievable. He played only from time to time and he was unbelievably influential immediately. He scored fantastic goals, he's just a world class player.
"I expected that he's playing, I'm happy that he's not seriously injured again, I said before that I was really happy when he was back. I love the player, that's how it is. Everybody who loves football must love Kevin De Bruyne. He looks like a really humble person and outstanding player on the pitch, leader and all that stuff, so it would make a difference.
"Bernardo Silva, [Ilkay] Gundogan played brilliantly [in his absence]. They have a lot of options, obviously, if he would play that would give them a massive boost, yes."