'Sadio Mane is not a diver', insists Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp after Pep Guardiola remark
Manager says star winger being unfairly targeted as Reds prepare for Champions League clash with Genk
Jurgen Klopp has defended Sadio Mane against Pep Guardiola’s accusation that he goes to ground too easily by insisting the Senegalese winger is not a diver.
The Manchester City manager described the Liverpool top scorer as a “special talent” after Mane delivered an injury-time winner at Aston Villa on Saturday but also said “sometimes he’s diving.”
The former Southampton forward had been booked for simulation earlier in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory, after an incident involving Frederic Guilbert, while Brendan Rodgers said he “made the most of the contact” from Marc Albrighton to get a “very soft” penalty against Leicester last month.
Liverpool manager Klopp felt Guardiola spoke too soon after the final whistle in his own side’s game against Southampton to have seen the footage from Villa Park, but insisted Mane is wronged by such claims.
Klopp said: “Do I like what he says about my players? I do not know how he could have known about the incident so quickly after the game.
“Sadio is not a diver. Yes, there was a situation in the Aston Villa game where he felt contact and went down. Maybe it was not a penalty but there was contact. It's not like he jumped over a leg or something. All the other penalties were penalties because he was there. If something like that had happened for Manchester City, I'm sure they would have wanted a penalty too.”
Liverpool have trailed in each of their last three games but have mounted comebacks to prevail in all and Klopp praised his team for their capacity to fight back.
He added: “It shows character. We have a lot of players for three or four years in so we are not together for a couple of weeks. We created this kind of belief that we can do it. I can imagine it is pretty hard to follow us so I am sorry about that. All my family tell me the same. They try to enjoy our games but it is more nervy and exciting.”
Liverpool have scored eight goals in the final 15 minutes of their last six games and goalkeeper Alisson believes their comebacks are self-perpetuating. “This gives us the confidence to keep fighting,” the Brazilian said.
However, they have only kept three clean sheets this season with Alisson, who missed two months because of injury, not managing any in his club’s colours since June’s Champions League final against Tottenham.
He was critical of the defence, adding: “I think we can do better with the concentration aspect. It is annoying when you concede stupid goals and you don’t keep the clean sheets. This annoys my team-mates also because when we went onto the pitch we always have a common goal to win the game and keep the clean sheet. When you keep the clean sheet you are closer to the victory, at least you have a draw.”
Klopp was more relaxed as he vowed not to change Liverpool’s attacking approach in a bid to stop opponents scoring. “Our main target is not to keep clean sheets,” he said. “We want to keep them but we have to be creative. For me, it is more important opponents don’t create against us. I can imagine it annoys the goalkeeper but he is as happy when we win games as the others. He will have clean sheets this season.”
Liverpool host Genk in the Champions League on Tuesday in a rematch of a 4-1 win two weeks ago with Klopp adamant his side can ignore the prospect of Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash with Guardiola’s team.
“I don’t doubt my players at all,” he said. “I would feel a bit embarrassed if I had to tell them: 'Don't think about Man City already'. I know them well enough, I don't have to do that. The story the boys wrote in the last three years was only possible because we are always focused completely on the next game.”
Alisson concurred, adding: “If we think of Manchester City, we will have difficulties.” Liverpool have six points from three matches and if they win back-to-back home Champions League fixtures, they will book their spot in the knockout stages with a game to spare and Alisson explained: “It is an important goal for us to qualify as soon as possible.”
Updated: November 4, 2019 07:55 PM