Manchester: Pep Guardiola has accused Liverpool star Sadio Mane of diving as the Manchester City boss lit the fuse on next weekend’s explosive clash between the Premier League title rivals.
Mane scored Liverpool’s winner in the fourth minute of stoppage-time as the leaders scored twice in the final moments to escape with a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday.
But the Senegal winger had been booked for simulation in the first half at Villa Park and that didn’t escape Guardiola’s attention.
Asked about Liverpool’s comeback, Guardiola, speaking after City came from behind to beat Southampton 2-1, told BBC Sport: “It has happened many times, what Liverpool have done, in the last few years, it’s because (Mane) is a special talent.
“Sometimes he’s diving, sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He’s a talent.”
Liverpool remain six points clear of City ahead of their crucial showdown at Anfield on Sunday and Guardiola knows the European champions will be tough to catch given their relentless drive.
“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.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Frank Lampard said “sloppy” Chelsea need to be more clinical after they survived a tense finish to climb to third place in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory at lowly Watford late on Saturday.
Lampard’s side bounced back from their midweek League Cup defeat against Manchester United to make it five successive league wins.
The Blues have won eight of their past nine matches in all competitions as Lampard continues to make a good impression in his first season in charge.
His decision to go with unproven youngsters like Tammy Abraham, who opened the scoring, has been a shrewd move, while Christian Pulisic, scorer of the second, is justifying his hefty price tag after starting the season on the bench.
Gerard Deulofeu’s late VAR-awarded penalty came too late to stop Chelsea recording a seventh successive away win in all competitions.
They are just two points behind second-placed Manchester City despite being unable to sign players in the summer due to a transfer ban.
But with a trip to City looming and Champions League ties against Ajax and Valencia on the schedule, November will provide much sterner tests of Chelsea’s progress than this stroll in the autumn chill at Vicarage Road.
“We played really well, our midfield was outstanding, but we just cannot have that sloppy bit near the end,” Lampard said.
“It was a terrible 10 minutes considering how the game had gone. We need to be more clinical, we got a bit sloppy.
“We rely on our goalkeeper for those moments at the end of the game and he did what we needed him to do.”
Despite his frustration at Chelsea’s nervous finish, Lampard praised their impressive start.
“I’m happy with how the players are playing. It’s great to watch,” he said.