Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have been roughed up by a number of Premier League rivals but Jurgen Klopp has vowed “to pay you back with our football”
Jurgen Klopp has warned teams who target Liverpool with underhand tactics: “We’ll pay you back with our football.”
The Reds boss has been increasingly frustrated in recent weeks, when his stars – and in particular Sadio Mane and Mo Salah – have been singled out for some serious rough stuff.
Mane has also found opponents trying to goad him and wind him up to provoke a reaction, and try to get him sent off. Three times over the past year or so, Klopp has taken him off to avoid that fate.
But he says the only answer from his high-flying team is to rise above it, get revenge by defeating opponents with their classy football…and he even wrote the newspaper headlines!
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“It is just that…the headline is: ‘we pay back with football’. So whatever we do, we pay them back with football,” he said.
“I have told them, we pay back with football. It has been going on a long time – for sure, for much longer it was a thing, even when it was not obvious to the outside.”
Mane in particular seems to be targeted by opponents, and against his old club Southampton it is clear there will be special plans for a special player.
Klopp says he has spoken to the Senegal star about it, because they not only dish out the dirty stuff, but also try to frustrate and anger him. He is confident though, Mane himself is now experienced enough to deal with it.
Asked if he has spoken to the winger, he said: “Oh yeah we did. You can see it in games, they go for him because they want to wind him up, even if it is not that obvious.
“It is two different things – sometimes opponents will be really aggressive in games. Against Flamengo in the Club World Cup final, Rafinha wanted to go for him after Sadio had caused him some problems when we played Bayern.
“From the first second, he was really hard and having a discussion with him. Fouling him and telling him to get up, these kinds of things.”
Mane won’t fall for it though – Klopp believes. Even when they do the dirty tricks to try to wind him up.
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“Sadio is now of an age where he is much better at that. Not that emotional any more,” he added.
“We all need emotions obviously, and sometimes we control them better and sometimes less and yes we have these problems of course. But that was not about that. Against Arsenal. It was a normal challenge.
“Against Atletico, it was obvious they had a red card and in the next situation a player went down and three or four somersaults to make sure there was a yellow card. The same with Real Madrid.”
Klopp more or less has a full squad to choose from, with only Harvey Elliott on the long term injury list, and Roberto Firmino and Joe Gomez close to a return.