(Reuters) – Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said on Tuesday that he had no intention of branding Liverpool’s Sadio Mane a diver, after comments to that effect at the weekend that angered Reds manager Juergen Klopp.
The two teams meet in a top-of-the-table clash on Sunday, with league leaders Liverpool six points ahead of City.
Guardiola said last weekend that Mane dived sometimes, after the forward was booked in the first half against Aston Villa for simulation. Klopp responded by taking a dig at City’s “tactical fouling”.
Guardiola said on Tuesday that his comments had been taken out of context.
“What Liverpool has done this season and last season many times is because they have this incredible quality to fight until the end… Sometimes at 94 minutes against Leicester (City) with the penalty (in the 2-1 win) it was like ‘wow’,” he told reporters ahead of City’s Champions League group stage match at Atalanta.
“But it was far from my intention to say that Sadio Mane is that type of player. Even with that, the ref and the VAR said penalty. Maybe I was wrong to think it wasn’t a penalty.”
“Juergen says he knows Sadio better than me,” Guardiola added. “With Juergen he tries to be positive, when he says it’s not like this.”
City have a perfect record in the Champions League with three wins in Group C and they face an Atalanta side that have lost all their games so far.
With a five-point lead over Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk, a win for City would guarantee progress to the knockout stages. Guardiola said he would pick a strong squad to wrap up qualification.
“I’m wanting to qualify as soon as possible, if not tomorrow then in one of the others,” the Spaniard said. “I’m not thinking of rotating my squad.
“I go game by game, (we) will try to win tomorrow… But if not we have Shakhtar and Zagreb and we will see then.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)