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Wijnaldum questions Guardiola's 'strange' diving claims

22:30 GMT 07/11/2019
Georginio Wijnaldum Liverpool 2019
The Netherlands midfielder has responded to suggestions from the Manchester City manager that the Reds use simulation to gain an advantage

Gini Wijnaldum believes Pep Guardiola’s comments about Liverpool diving were “strange” but says he is looking forward to Sunday’s crunch clash with Manchester City at Anfield.

The Reds go into the weekend knowing a win would take them nine points clear at the top of the Premier League. 

Victory for Guardiola’s side, of course, would close the gap to just three points and inflict Liverpool’s first league defeat since they lost at the Etihad Stadium at the turn of the year.

Guardiola fired the first shots in the media battle last weekend, talking about the “special talent” of Jurgen Klopp’s side, and in particular Sadio Mane.

“Sometimes he is diving, sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute,” the City boss told BBC Sport last Saturday.

Both Klopp and Mane have since addressed those comments, with Mane jokingly insisting he would ‘dive’ again on Sunday if it helps his side. Guardiola, for his part, seemed to row back on his original words when asked to clarify earlier in the week.

Wijnaldum, naturally, was keen not to get into a war of words, but he admitted he had been surprised by Guardiola’s comments.

“I heard what he said,” he told reporters. “He gave his opinion about us and the way he thinks. Nothing bad in that. That is his opinion. In his opinion Sadio is a diver. What can you say about that?

“I didn’t see the Villa one back [when Mane was booked for diving], so it’s difficult to give my opinion on that, but I can’t remember Sadio doing it before. Now we have VAR as well, so… 

“How many players of ours have had a yellow card for diving? Sadio was the first, I think? So to say that we are divers, I think it’s a little bit strange. That’s my opinion.”

Wijnaldum was in no mood to speculate on how Sunday’s game might play out, although he suggested that an open, free-flowing game would suit both sides.

“Maybe they will play different,” the Dutch midfielder said. “I think it suits every team if it is a more open game, but it is also a sign of respect if they play differently.”

Liverpool, like City, needed to come from behind to pick up three points in their last league game. While Guardiola’s side were beating Southampton 2-1 at the Etihad, Klopp’s men were scoring two goals in the final three minutes to see off Villa.

It has become a Reds hallmark, those battling wins and those dramatic late winners. Since the start of 2019, they have come from behind to win valuable points in seven different games.

“That’s something we changed in the last few years,” Wijnaldum said. “A couple of years ago we were struggling to win games like we win them now, but we grew and learned a lot during the years. 

“We just created that thing that we know we always can turn things around. We always have that feeling, to stay positive. That’s also because of the results we had until now, and the way we came back. 

“Our mindset is different, which is quite good, because we keep doing the things we want to do in a game. Normally if you are 2-0 down, your body language is going to change, but we still have that mindset that we can still turn it around. It’s because of the belief we have in each other, but also the results we have had. 

“If it just happened once, it’s not the same. But it happened over and over. We know we are a team that can always come back from difficult situations, but of course we don’t want to let it go that far!”

Asked if it was more physically and mentally demanding to win games that way, Wijnaldum added: “It’s hard, really hard. You have to go until the end, and you have to go even when you don’t physically see a positive outcome. 

“Especially at the end of the games, you just keep going because you think you can. Your body is tired and so you battle with your body like ‘no, we have to go, we have to go on’. It’s really hard, but in the end you enjoy it more if you win that way than if it is easy.”