Jurgen Klopp said last night he was staggered by thecheating jibe aimed by Pep Guardiola at Sadio Manebut could not resist a retaliatory dig at Manchester City’s reputation for tactical fouling.
This weekend’sPremier League showdownbetween the title rivals has all the makings of an epic grudge match after Liverpool manager Klopp queried why City counterpart Guardiola was talking about the Anfield club in the immediate aftermath of his own team’s comeback victory over Southampton.
There is growing bewilderment on Merseyside at the champions’ fixation with Liverpool.
“I couldn’t really believe it to be honest and then I saw it. I am not sure ifPep spoke in that moment about Sadioor the team – both is not too nice to be honest, ”said Klopp. “I am not too sure if I want to put oil on the fire. I am not interested in these kind of things. And I promise not to mention tactical fouls.
“That is maybe already too much. I can say Sadio is not a diver. There was a situation in the Aston Villa game where he got contact and went down. Maybe it was not a penalty but there was contact. It’s not like jumping over a leg and [acting] like he hit you or whatever. All the other penalties were penalties because he was in that situation. I am 100 per cent sure if something like this happened for Manchester City they would want to have a penalty, because somebody kicked their player in the box and that’s a penalty. ”
With City heading to Anfield on Sunday – where they are already assured a hostile reception as the club standing in the way of Liverpool ending what will soon be a 30 – year wait for the title – there is bemusement that Guardiola lit the fuse directly before his trip to Merseyside.
It has not gone unnoticed how often Liverpool are a topic of conversation in Guardiola’s press conferences and interviews.
“Do I get asked as well as much about Man City? I don’t know, ”said Klopp. “When I came into the interview after the game, for example, I really had no clue what the other Premier League results were. That is the truth. I didn’t ask anybody, I had to speak to players, I had to speak to a lot of people and then I went into interviews. I didn’t think for one second about the other games. Then after the interviews: by the way, how did the other teams play? Then someone told me, City won in the 86 th minute and all this happened.
“I don’t understand these types of things. My brain is not big enough to think about another team as well. I have enough to do to think about us and deal with all these things. Tuesday we play Genk and that deserves all my attention and gets it. That is the only way I can do it.
“After that we can speak about Manchester City – we have to. We will internally speak a lot, then we will prepare the game. Before then, not at all. ”
Guardiola’s remarks successfully overshadowed the build-up to Liverpool’s Champions League tie, despite Klopp’s best efforts to ensure no one is distracted by the forthcoming City game.
“I am not really in a Man City mood,” said Klopp.
“The story the boys wrote in the last three years was only possible because we are always focused on the next game completely with all we have.
“We have big ambitions in this competition and it is an open group, pretty much everything possible. We have to make sure that we get these three points, and that only works if we are 100 per cent focused on it, everyone knows that. 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. ”
Klopp is expected to make changes for the visit of Genk, the Belgian champions, although he is obviously eager for two more wins to guarantee qualification before the final group game. That would certainly help Liverpool in December when they have a packed schedule.
“I don’t think we can do it [qualify] Tuesday but we have to make a big step, ”He said.
“We are at home and whoever we play we will try everything we can to win it. We have another home game against Napoli and we cannot waste time.
“It will be tough when we go to Salzburg. It will be tough at home to Napoli. We cannot expect things will always work like they should so we will just make sure we can have as many points as possible. That is all that we will try to think about. ”
Genk coach Felice Mazzu described Liverpool as the best team in the world.
“It is the moment to enjoy but not to be here to take photos. It is to give their life on the pitch, ”said Mazzu. “They play a big game against a big team perhaps for once in our life in a place like this.
“We play against the best team in the world at the moment.”
Genk were beaten 4-1 at home by Liverpool a fortnight ago and have yet to win any of the 15 matches they have played in their relatively small Champions League history.
A 2-0 defeat against struggling Eupen at the weekend was not the ideal preparation.