It was a goal that traveled all the way from Villa Park and up the M6 into the brain of Pep Guardiola, drawing the battle lines ahead of the tremendous encounter between the Premier League title contenders on Sunday. Sadio Mane’s magnificent header deep into Kloppage time ensured that Liverpool met Manchester City in Anfield with their six-point lead intact, but it was the post-match comments of Guardiola that overshadowed the build-up. Mane had swung the game in favor of Liverpool against Aston Villa with an assist and the winning goal yet as he climbed on Saturday night on the team bus he was accused of “often diving” by Guardiola.In the first half against Villa, the Senegal forward had been booked for simulation, falling theatrically under a harmless challenge in Frederic Guilbert’s penalty area, and that moment had obviously been relayed back to the Etihad Stadium. It was clearly a premeditated snipe from the manager of Manchester City that is likely to galvanize the crowd of Anfield and be used as ammunition in the dressing room of Klopp. Guardiola’s remarks emerged too late for Klopp’s attention on Saturday, but he insisted he was far from his thoughts on the potentially pivotal game this weekend.,
He said: “I never considered the game of Man City and the game of Aston Villa together for a second. I never thought:’ OK, you’re supposed to win that because we might lose next week and then we’re on a level or whatever.'” I didn’t ask[ about the other results], it wasn’t that important. We are facing Genk[ in the Tournament of Champions] and then we are playing Man City. “Yes, it’s important, away from Aston Villa, the way they set up, really important, really hard, but we’ve done it and that’s good and now we’ve got to collect the bounce again and get ready for the next challenge, Genk.” Liverpool has now won 19 of their 20 league games and this dramatic finale must have felt like a punch in Guardiola’s guts.They had been poor for an hour, falling behind the first-half goal of Trezeguet and cursing the video assistant referee’s ridiculous decision to rule out the equalizer of Roberto Firmino as his armpit was offside.But the comeback became more inevitable as their intensity levels rose, with Andy Robertson heading off the corner of Trent Alexander-Arnold in an 87th-minute leveller before Mane’s deft header. It means that from five late goals against Leicester, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Villa, Liverpool has now accumulated eight points. Adam Lallana, the midfielder, believes that anything is possible with their resilience. “It’s like a sixth sense, almost,” he said. “When it’s late, teams worry.”We just got that momentum and there’s an abundance of character there. We use it for our advantage with the deliveries and set pieces we have in our team. It is a weapon like that.”For Villa, who have been dreaming of their first home win over Liverpool in the league since May 2011, it was a gut-wrenching finale. At the final whistle, many of their players fell to the turf, broken by the late comeback. But after spirited performances in their last two games against City and Liverpool, play-off winners from the Dean Smith Championship have proven to be part of this division. This famous old theater was rocking, and in what was an excellent team performance, Tyrone Mings, John McGinn and Marvelous Nakamba were outstanding.McGinn is perfectly positioned to evaluate their strengths after back-to-back games against the two title contenders. “Liverpool don’t give up, they’re still going on and at the end they probably tired us too much. They’re amazing,” he said. “Last week it was the same with Man City, they’re just mentally draining you. You’re trying your best to press them but they’re top teams and they’re giving them full credit.” I’m gutted but we have to be proud of how we’ve been playing and if we’re playing like that for the rest of the season we’re going to be all right. Perhaps the next time they call, we’re going to be a little closer.