Pep Guardiola has stoked the fires ahead of next week’s clash between Premier League champions Manchester City and league leaders Liverpool by accusing the Reds’ star forward Sadio Mane of diving.
Guardiola was speaking after a dramatic day for the leading duo, who both scored late goals as they came from behind to win – City beating Southampton 2-1 at home and Liverpool winning 2-1 away to Aston Villa.
Mane scored Liverpool’s winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time at Villa Park, but had seen yellow for simulation in the first half of the game.
‘It has happened many times, what Liverpool have done, in the last few years, it’s because (Mane) is a special talent,’ Guardiola told BBC Sport. ‘Sometimes he’s diving, sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute.
He’s a talent.’ Liverpool had trailed to Trezeguet’s 21st-minute goal but finally drew level when Andy Robertson scored in the 87th minute before Mane’s winner.
‘If it’s one time, two times, “we were lucky, we were lucky”, but it happened in the last two seasons many, many times – they have a special character to do that,’ Guardiola said of Liverpool’s late goals.
‘We look at ourselves, we know which team we face, I think they have won 10 and drawn one. Next week we go to Anfield to try to play them.’ Jurgen Klopp is likely to have not taken kindly to the comments by his title rival and it has provided an extra layer of anticipation for their head-to-head battle next weekend.
City, who have not won in the league at Anfield since 2003, will start Sunday’s match six points behind Klopp’s side. Defeat for Guardiola’s side is unfathomable given the massive psychological boost it would have Liverpool, even if the season remains largely in its infancy.
But Guardiola has never taken a team back from that many points behind to win the league title and so he would need to do something he is yet to do in his management career should his side fall flat on Merseyside.