Guardiola pulls back from Mane ‘diving’ claim
Manchester City can qualify for the Champions League knockout stages with two games to spare should they beat Atalanta this evening but it was easy to overlook that here given the attention Sunday’s trip to Anfield is drawing.
Pep Guardiola had put the cat among the pigeons over the weekend when he suggested Sadio Mane was guilty of diving, an accusation that drew a withering retort from Jurgen Klopp, his Liverpool counterpart, who took a thinly veiled dig at City’s “tactical fouling” and implied the Catalan was becoming obsessed with the Merseyside club.
Guardiola opted against further inflaming tensions yesterday by rowing back on his claims, insisting it was “far away from my intention” to infer Mane was a diver, but it stopped short of being a full-scale climbdown.
Sure, Guardiola sought to clarify his comments about Mane – who had been booked for simulation before going on to score a 94th-minute winner in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.
He also stressed his admiration for Liverpool’s capacity to score so many late goals, even saying he had told his children it had nothing to do with luck. But Guardiola’s claims that he “didn’t listen to what [Klopp] said” did not quite stack up given that there was a pointed repeat of the phrase the Liverpool manager
had used about not wanting to “put oil on the fire” – only to proceed to do so.
“I didn’t listen to what he said so I don’t know,” Guardiola said, before adding when the subject of tactical fouling was raised: “No comment on that. I don’t put oil in the fire.”
Before then, there had been what Guardiola described as an attempt to “clarify everything for Jurgen”. The damage, though, may already have been done, and it is hard to believe there will be a convivial mood at Anfield as City set about trying to halve Liverpool’s six-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
“My son and my daughter, all the time when they [Liverpool] win in the last minutes, ask me how lucky, how lucky they are,” Guardiola said. “I say, ‘It’s not lucky’. What Liverpool has done last seatimes
son and this season many, many times is because they’ve this incredible quality and this incredible talent to fight until the end. That’s why I said to my players – not just my son and my daughter – that it is not lucky. If it happens once or twice in a life then, yes, but this many – maybe 10 or 12 or 13 times? In the 94th minute like it was [in their win] against Leicester, it was a penalty, it was wow.
“Far away from my intention was to say Sadio is this type of player because I admire him a lot. For Jurgen, it [the Leicester decision] is a penalty, for the referee it was a penalty, for the VAR it was a penalty. I was the wrong guy – or maybe not, I don’t know. “So it was a praise for Liverpool, not just about one action. To say it’s lucky again? No. It happens many
at Anfield and away [from home] because they push and push.
“That’s why it’s nice to try to compete with them. Hopefully, I can clarify everything for Jurgen.”
Despite the importance of Sunday’s game, Guardiola has vowed to field a strong side against Atalanta as City try to wrap up qualification early at the San Siro, where the Italians play in the Champions League.
Praise: Pep Guardiola admitted some admiration for Liverpool