The Reds manager was frustrated to see criticism from a rival boss at Manchester City distract from his side’s Champions League meeting with Genk, Jurgen Klopp has defended Sadio Mane after Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola suggested the Liverpool forward is “sometimes” guilty of diving.
Mane scored a late winner for Liverpool in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Aston Villa but was earlier shown a yellow card for simulation, having been criticised previously when winning contentious penalties.
Guardiola stoked tensions ahead of next weekend’s top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool by taking a swipe at the Senegal international for going to ground too easily.
“Sometimes he is diving,” Guardiola told BBC Sport, speaking after both City and Liverpool pulled off late Premier League comebacks at the weekend.
“Sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He’s a talent.”
However, Klopp responded that contact was made on Mane inside the box and claimed City’s players would have likewise gone down, before insisting he did not want to talk about Liverpool’s domestic rivals.
“I don’t know how [Guardiola] could have known about any incident in our game so quickly after their game,” Klopp told a pre-match news conference ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League meeting with Genk.
“Sadio is not a diver. There was a situation in the Villa game when he got a contact and went down but there was contact.
“I am 100 per cent sure if something like this happened to Man City, they would want to have a penalty. I am absolutely not in the mood to talk about Man City. I really want to talk about Genk.”
Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2019-20
Klopp was pressed on the looming clash with City, though, as Liverpool remain six points clear at the top of the league table.
Despite the magnitude of Sunday’s match at Anfield, Klopp has no concerns his players will be distracted against Genk.
“You can say the words Man City, you just cannot think about it,” he said. “I don’t doubt my players at all. I would feel a bit embarrassed if I had to tell them, ‘Don’t think about Man City already’.
“The story we have written over the last three years is only possible because we always focus on the next game. We have big ambitions in the Champions League and it’s an open group.
“We have to be 100 per cent spot on, make a good atmosphere and get the points. For the people at Anfield, we need to focus on this match, just like the players will be.”
Liverpool have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the visit of Genk, who were beaten 4-1 when the sides met in Belgium two weeks ago.
That results contributes to making Liverpool heavy favourites for the return fixture, and Klopp said of the expectation of victory: “It will be a challenge but a nice one to have.
“It means we have a good team. It’s not the biggest problem to have. It’s 100 per cent clear we have to put in a proper shift to get the win.
“We have to use the spaces. The group is still open and we need everyone. [Genk] can still make Europa League so they still have targets.
“We need to respect them. The story of the last two years is that we have always been spot on when we needed to be.”