Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce insists he has no problem with “soft German” Jurgen Klopp.
Allardyce takes his struggling side to Klopp’s Liverpool on Saturday determined to gain revenge for a 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light on December 30.
Christian Benteke’s lone strike was enough to seal victory that night, although the Reds manager was left fuming that Jeremain Lens’ challenge on Mamadou Sakho had not resulted in a red card, prompting a withering response from his opposite number.
However, Allardyce is adamant he meant no offence to the German, who later played down the comment.
The Black Cats chief said: “It was more about maybe German football is softer than ours when he said Jeremain Lens should have been sent off.”
Klopp also took in good part further comments made by Allardyce in a radio interview when he was asked for a view on Liverpool’s rash of injuries, and his reply was interpreted by some as an attack on the former Borussia Dortmund manager’s methods.
The 61-year-old said: “I made a bit of a comment – which I perhaps shouldn’t have done – which wasn’t directed at him, really.
“You journalists make a big fuss out of what was an honest answer on talkSPORT. (Host) Alan Brazil has apologised to me. When he saw the headlines, he thought they were more ridiculous than me.
“I have no problem. It’s great to see him here, he’s a great character. Obviously on Saturday, I can’t wish him well, but after that, I do.”
Sunderland’s need is ever more pressing with Tuesday night’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester City on Wearside meaning they remain four points adrift of safety with just 14 games remaining, the next three of them trips to Anfield and West Ham either side of Manchester United’s visit to the north-east.
Allardyce was buoyed by an encouraging display against Manuel Pellegrini’s title-chasers, in which January signings Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchhoff and Wahbi Khazri all impressed, but is under no illusions as to the task ahead with the current bottom five – Aston Villa, Sunderland, Newcastle, Norwich and Swansea – in danger of being cast adrift.
He said: “There’s a concern, there’s a huge concern. We are in a huge battle to overcome the points difference with the games running out.
“Like I’ve said, we are drawing closer to the stage where a draw is no longer required, it’s a victory, and that’s where I didn’t want to be. That’s why I have gone into the market for as many players as I possibly could, because the players previously haven’t quite hit those consistent levels.
“They have been very, very close on so many occasions and then just slipped up – Watford here, Southampton here, Liverpool here, West Brom away – just that odd goal that we lost by.
“If we had drawn all those four or five games, we’d be on 24 points, out of the bottom three, we’d have as many games as points, and 38 points from 38 games over the last 10 years has equated to a safe position.
“That’s why I have gone into the market and hopefully spent our money very wisely.”