Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has called out Liverpool forward Sadio Mane over a supposed penchant for going to ground because he “fears the threat” of the Senegalese, says Jamie Redknapp.
The Blues coach has started the mind games early ahead of a crucial Premier League clash between two title hopefuls at Anfield on Sunday.
While assessing the attacking options available to Liverpool, which promise to pose a serious problem to his side next weekend, Guardiola suggested that Mane is partial to the odd bout of theatrics.
He told Sky Sports: "Sometimes [Mane] is diving, sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He's a talent.”
Mane netted a dramatic stoppage-time winner for Liverpool in their most recent outing against Aston Villa – with a 2-1 victory keeping Jurgen Klopp’s side six points clear at the summit.
City were able to overturn a similar deficit last season, en route to claiming a historic domestic treble, but many are already tipping the crown to head for Merseyside in 2020.
Pressure is mounting on the defending champions as a result, with Redknapp suggesting that Guardiola is fully aware of the size of the challenge he now faces.
The former Liverpool midfielder told the Daily Mail ahead of City’s trip to Anfield: “Hearing Pep Guardiola mention Sadio Mane and diving was surprising.
“It is unusual to hear a manager say that about a rival player, but I don't think it was Guardiola trying to wind up Mane ahead of this Sunday's showdown at Anfield.
“It wasn't an attempt at mind games, or a deliberate dig. I believe Guardiola genuinely fears the threat of Mane.
“The Manchester City manager has him on his mind. He knows the 27-year-old is now Liverpool's most important player. He is Jurgen Klopp's No. 1 man, as proven on Saturday.
“In the 65th minute against Aston Villa, with the league leaders losing 1-0, Klopp took off Mohamed Salah. It was a big call, but it paid off.
“Mane made sure he got his head to the ball, even as Villa's Jonathan Kodjia was trying to get his boot to it first. What a big, brave goal.”
Liverpool missed out on the title in 2018-19 by a solitary point, with their inability to overcome City in two Premier League outings ultimately costing them dear.
Their only defeat of the season came at the Etihad Stadium, while they were held to a goalless draw by the Blues on home soil.
Redknapp wants to see Klopp’s side favour a more adventurous approach when rivalries are rekindled, adding: “Liverpool cannot make the same mistake they made last season when Manchester City left Anfield with a 0-0 draw. Jurgen Klopp's men were passive last October.
“In hindsight, we can see how costly it was that they only picked up one point rather than three. This Sunday, they should go for the win and strike a psychological blow.”