The officials – from the top dog to the fourth in the chain, not to forget the VAR outside the ground, often find themselves in the firing line when a disgruntled boss sees red.
Opposition players, supporters and even the media are sometimes castigated when a result doesn’t go the right way.
Public self-reflection is rare in the world of a Premier League boss, so for Pep Guardiola to admit it’s imperative that he and Jurgen Klopp keep their cool on the sideline tonight illustrates how dangerously flammable things have become between Manchester City and Liverpool in recent times. The clubs sent a joint letter to supporters ahead of the Carabao Cup fourth-round tie calling for an end to the ugly scenes that have marred recent clashes.
Guardiola believes it is important he and Jurgen Klopp set an example to fans by keeping their own emotions in check on the touchline.
Klopp was sent off and received a one-match touchline ban after venting his fury at an assistant referee during Liverpool’s 1-0 win over City at Anfield in October, when Guardiola also angrily confronted fourth official Mike Dean.
Asked if he felt an added responsibility over his behaviour, the City manager said: “Definitely. We want to behave well – the players, the managers, the spectators – but sometimes emotions happen. People can’t behave like they’re marble, like they’re ice-cold when you’re disallowed a goal in games against the biggest opponents.
“We will always react in that way but respect for the officials, the rules and the opponent is always there, from my point of view.
“The clubs try to create a good environment; try to create the emotions we are seeing in the World Cup, in Argentina right now in the streets. It’s just a game, let’s make people happy.”
City fans were accused of singing sick Hillsborough chants and daubing graffiti on the away concourses mocking the disaster at the game in October. Their Liverpool counterparts were accused of throwing coins at Guardiola and attacking the City team bus as it left Anfield.
Guardiola joked that he at least was not sent off at Anfield but had dreams where it was going to happen, although the Catalan’s wider calls for calm were echoed by Pep Lijnders, Klopp’s assistant.
“The ones who controls their emotions are the ones who go furthest,” Lijnders said. “Control your emotions, don’t let the emotions control you. It’s very positive that both clubs are co-operating.”
Klopp was accused of stoking tensions ahead of their win two months ago – and his sending-off did not help his cause – with pre-match comments about City’s spending power, but Lijnders added that the coaching staff had to take a more distanced view about what is happening in the stands and on the pitch.
“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,” he added.
“For us it’s impossible to be fully emotional because the game is too quick for that.
“If I’m emotional to one side (of the pitch) the ball is already on the other side or Pep (Guardiola) has already changed something tactically and we have to be aware to counter it or whatever.”
Tonight’s encounter will, of course, be both clubs’ first outing since the break for the World Cup.
Liverpool are likely to name a stronger-than-usual Carabao Cup side as they seek to maintain their grip on the trophy they won in February.
While neither Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk nor Ibrahima Konate, both centre-backs, are set to feature, their forward line is likely to include Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino (who were not at the World Cup) and Darwin Nunez (who was knocked out with Uruguay in the group stage).
City had 16 players away at the World Cup, more than any other English side.
As a result of differing holidays, fitness levels in the squad now vary.
Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne played in a friendly against Girona last week but Rodri, Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Ake and Manuel Akanji have only been back in training a few days.
Those involved with England and Portugal, along with goalkeeper Ederson, were due to report back later, while World Cup winner Julian Alvarez will not return until next week.
Erling Haaland, Riyad Mahrez, Sergio Gomez and Cole Palmer were not involved in the tournament.
Guardiola said: “Step by step people come back. We are happy they are back, in general they played really well.
“I have a feeling that the players in the World Cup are in a better condition than the players who were here. Sergio, Erling, Riyad, Cole, they missed a little bit.
“Tomorrow is important for players not at the World Cup to regain the rhythm.”