Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was inevitably asked about Sadio Mane this afternoon during his press conference to preview Tuesday’s clash with Genk, after Pep Guardiola bizarrely accused the Senegalese of being a ‘diver’ over the weekend.
In the immediate aftermath of Manchester City’s 2-1 win against Southampton, Guardiola, rather than focus on his own side’s comeback, chose to pick out Mane after he was booked playing for the Reds against Aston Villa at the same time as the Etihad game.
It was no coincidence that with the huge clash between the Reds and Manchester City coming up next weekend, Guardiola opted to bring it up, but the timing was odd given he could not have seen the incident at the time given both sides were playing simultaneously.
Mane was touched so it was not a dive, though he went down very easily and it probably was not a penalty kick either. Jon Moss, the referee, however, took the view that it was simulation, a point which Guardiola was very keen to pick up on.
Today, Klopp was in no mood to get into a war of words, but equally, he was eager to stand up for his player, as you would imagine being the case. Despite the press conference today being about the Champions League fixture tomorrow night, Klopp simply had to respond.
Klopp responding to Pep Guardiola comments on Mane:
🗣"Sadio is not a diver. There was a situation in the villa game where he felt the contact and went down, maybe it was not a penalty but there was contact. I'm absolutely not in the mood to talk about Man City." #Liverpoolfc pic.twitter.com/aOCFoX7rpA
— Anything Liverpool (@AnythingLFC_) November 4, 2019
It would have been of no benefit whatsoever to Klopp to engage with what Guardiola wants and become involved in a spat days before Sunday’s match has even begun.
The German did the sensible thing, making a simple and swift reply, and will hope it is the football, not the referees, who take centre stage at Anfield in under a week’s time.
Michael Oliver has been appointed as the official in the middle for the Premier League clash with Manchester City, with Paul Tierney the Video Assistant Referee – the controversial Martin Atkinson is nowhere near it.
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Oliver is the best referee in the country at the current time, and by quite a distance, though he will have to be on his toes. Mike Dean, the fourth official on the day, is likely to have his patience tested by both managers on the touchline, too, with neither Klopp nor Guardiola known for being quiet.
The game looks set to be colossal, and while it will not be decisive in terms of the title race whichever way the outcome swings, given there is so much of the campaign remaining, it could be seen as a very important game when the Premier League winners medals are distributed in May.
For fans of both teams, and for neutrals, the match, which kicks off at 4:30pm UK time, could be one of the highlights of the season.