Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has heaped praise on Liverpool, admitting he has never faced an opponent as strong as Jürgen Klopp's title winners.
City finished the campaign 18 points behind Liverpool and were comprehensively beaten 3-1 when the sides met in November. Guardiola's side did pick up a 4-0 win later in the campaign, but that was after Liverpool took their foot off the gas pedal after being confirmed as champions.
Klopp is the only manager to have won more games against Guardiola than he has lost, having won nine of the pair's 19 meetings and losing just eight, and the City boss told DAZN (via AS) that he has never faced anyone like Klopp.
"The toughest opponent I've faced in my career has been this Liverpool from the last year," Guardiola said. "They've dominated all the records. When you let yourself be dominated and confined in your area, you don't get out. When you dominate them, they run into space like nobody else.
"They are very fast going backwards. They are very strong strategically. Their players have great mental strength. [Klopp] is the rival who has made me think about how to beat him the most."
After reminiscing about his meetings with Klopp in both England and Germany, Guardiola took time to reflect on his days with Barcelona, specifically clashes with Real Madrid managers like José Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini.
"I have always said that Real Madrid are a very strong team in my career, they helped me to become a better coach with tough matches and competitions with José Mourinho, Pellegrini and all the coaches they had," he added.
"If you ask me which has been the most difficult rival for me to face, it has been Liverpool. The first years when I arrived in England, Liverpool were a bit weaker than now and Real Madrid were stronger.
Now, this Liverpool are the hardest I have come across in my coaching career."
City and Real will come face to face in the Champions League this summer, giving Guardiola another chance to battle against Zinedine Zidane, and the Spaniard admitted he is a big fan of the Real boss.
"Although people may not believe me because he is from Real Madrid, I am very happy that things are going well because it is very good for football that things go well for people like him," he said.
"When he has done what he has done, winning three Champions Leagues in a row, taking two La Liga titles from Barça when they - in this decade - have dominated this competition like no other club, it shows his ability."