Neil Humphreys: Anfield shows Man City what they lack
Guardiola knows he doesn't have the Reds' decisive 12th man
Pep Guardiola's strange criticism of his own supporters felt like an acknowledgement of an uncomfortable reality.
Manchester City will never be Liverpool, not under Guardiola, maybe not even in his lifetime, but certainly not any time soon.
And all the trophies and £100-million (S$186.5m) signings won't change that.
Sixteen goals in three games certainly didn't. Guardiola said as much in his unprovoked dig at City fans yesterday. He urged them to come out in greater numbers for tomorrow's English Premier League game against Southampton.
After all, he'd given them what they'd wanted. He'd played the gladiator. Standing among the battered bodies of RB Leipzig defenders, he practically demanded an answer from the Etihad crowd.
Were they not entertained?
Of course they were. Guardiola's men had given his patchy audience a wonderfully ragged 6-3 victory. In return, the City fans gave Guardiola empty seats.
There were thousands of them, 17,000 in fact, as a crowd of 38,062 stretched out inside the 55,000-capacity Etihad Stadium.
Those six goals against Leipzig followed five against both Arsenal and Norwich City. City supporters have never had it so good.
And yet, Guardiola finds himself demanding more from a club still reaching for a pre-eminence to rival his own.
He knows what he wants. He's seen it, in both the present and the past.
Bayern Munich and Barcelona packed their respective citadels for him, bringing along a storied history and pedigree with every ticket.
Just as he knows that Liverpool did the same for his biggest rival, a fist-pumping cheerleader who channels the Merseyside mania.
Juergen Klopp knows exactly what he's got at Anfield. He defined the alchemy in just three words. "Proper Champions League," he said, after Liverpool's breathless 3-2 win against AC Milan yesterday.
Oh, it most certainly was proper Champions League stuff. It was proper legitimacy, too. If anyone still has doubts over where true power lies in the English game, take a look at exhibits A and B - Anfield and the Etihad - one brought the noise, the other brought 17,000 spare seats.
An irony of the European Super League fiasco is that its biggest advocates - Liverpool's owners - need it least of all as a public relations exercise. While those that need it least of all from a financial standpoint - City's owners - could certainly use the prestige boost.
The European Super League's selling point was the promise of round-robin blockbusters between elite clubs, played regularly in football's finest amphitheatres.
Anfield delivers on that promise whenever the floodlights welcome another of those fabled European nights.
As Klopp said, it's "proper Champions League" at Anfield, especially when the iconic gates are open to the public.
Some 553 dreary days had passed since Liverpool last hosted a full house in the Champions League and the capacity crowd was determined to make up for lost time. Jordan Henderson wore the armband, but the 12th man took charge.
Fans and footballers were co-conspirators in creating an aggressive, relentless momentum that passed from the stands to the pitch and then back again in a circular fashion that heightened the performance on both sides of the line.
If anything, the Reds nearly became victims of their own manic enthusiasm, spilling forward and conjuring 15 shots at goal, but leaving too much space behind for Milan to score twice.
In such moments, Liverpool were "losing the plot", according to Klopp, but what a glorious plot to behold after months of empty stadiums and soulless fixtures.
The Reds' orchestra put on a thrilling show just to reiterate what we've all missed in the last year or so and what's still missing from Guardiola's treasure chest.
He has the effervescent Jack Grealish, a sparkling squad and unlimited funds. But he'll never have anything like Anfield. And he knows it.