By Carl Markham, PA
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has rejected claims his pre-match comments about Manchester City inflamed tensions ahead of Sunday’s win at Anfield.
The Reds’ performance in inflicting the Premier League champions’ first defeat of the season was overshadowed by scenes off the pitch which saw coins thrown at Pep Guardiola and visiting fans singing songs and writing graffiti about the Hillsborough and Heysel disasters.
After the match, City, who also claimed one of their coaches had sustained windscreen damage from something thrown from the street, expressed privately a view that Klopp talking about their limitless spending power – and that of other Gulf state-owned clubs Newcastle and Paris St Germain – had contributed to a fiery Anfield atmosphere.
Klopp took exception, suggesting he was deliberately misunderstood.
“That is the life of people who speak in public. It is not the first time I am misunderstood,” he said ahead of the visit of West Ham.
“So I know what I thought when I said it. When someone misunderstands that – or wants to misunderstand that – I cannot help that.
“I know I have to be careful and I’ve known that for years and when I don’t, I realise it from time to time.
“I just answer and say what I think. I will try to do it in the future. It is never my aim to blame anyone or whatever, but I say what I know about things or how I judge it how I see it.
“I cannot change it. Nothing that has been made of it was my intention.”
The rivalry between the two clubs has escalated over the last five years as the pair became genuine Premier League title rivals, and while the worst incident was an attack on the City team coach before a Champions League match in 2018, there has been underlying tension ever since.
However, in his pre-match press conference on Friday, Klopp praised Guardiola, City and summer signing Erling Haaland as currently being the world’s best, which is why the Reds boss is so bewildered that he is being targeted as the ignition point for Sunday’s hostilities.
“I am not sure we have to be best friends with other clubs. I am not sure anybody wants to be best friends with us,” added the German, who apologised for allowing emotions to get the better of him when he was sent off late in the game by referee Anthony Taylor.
“It started with a question (about how to compete with City) and I answered it and all the rest was made of it.
“I know what I thought and put it in perspective and said how much I respect what they are doing and it was still not right for some.
“And then if one fan throws a coin it is a massive mistake and will get punished and it looks like it (the victory) was overshadowed because it was a brilliant performance against an incredibly strong side.
“I thought the performance was outstanding and then all the talk goes about what I said and what I did and what people made of it.
“I don’t think that should be the case.”