SADIO MANE taunted title rivals Manchester City by insisting: “We won’t choke.”
Mane is adamant Liverpool WILL win the Premier League crown for the first time this season, ending their agonising 29-year wait to become champions again.
The Reds were ridiculed when Steven Gerrard’s infamous Anfield slip against Chelsea gifted City the title in 2014.
But forward Mane claims the leaders — who are four points clear of City — have learnt their lesson.
He said: “This is not a team of chokers. We will be champions.”
Steven Gerrard’s Anfield stumble — which all but cost Liverpool the 2014 title — spawned a series of jokes, memes and chants.
But Jurgen Klopp’s Reds now have a great chance of silencing those sniggers for good by finally winning the club’s first Premier League title.
And Liverpool’s African striker Mane insisted: “I am sure we will be champions of England.
“When I wake up, I don’t go to the training ground thinking we will not win.
“We are determined to show we are the best team in the league.”
Liverpool, table-toppers since Christmas, have a healthy four-point cushion over Pep Guardiola’s defending champions Manchester City.
In the last 11 years, only three teams who have been top at Christmas have failed to win the title. But two of those have been Liverpool — in 2008-09 and 2013-14. The other was Arsenal in 2007-8.
In April 2014, with just three games to go, Liverpool were in a commanding position to be crowned champions for the first time since 1990.
Boss Brendan Rodgers’ men were three points clear of City and on an 11-game winning streak before they took on Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
The previous week, Liverpool had beaten City 3-2 in a thriller, prompting skipper Gerrard to utter the famous words in a post-match huddle: “This does not f****** slip now!”
Those words came back to haunt the England midfield legend, as his costly trip let in Demba Ba to run through unchallenged and score the opener in a 2-0 victory at Anfield.
It was the most heart-breaking stumble on Merseyside turf since the Queen Mother’s horse Devon Loch inexplicably fell as it jumped an imaginary fence when leading the 1956 Grand National — just yards from the winning post.
Rangers boss Gerrard has since admitted he is still haunted by his “cruel slip”, confessing: “There isn’t a day goes by I don’t think about it.”
However, Mane believes Liverpool have now learnt some harsh lessons.
The Senegal star, 26, declared: “It is not easy to hear people accuse the team of being chokers.
MOST READ IN FOOTBALL
“But we have to ignore it and focus on what is in front of us.
“Liverpool had the chance to win it a few years ago and did not do it.
“But I prefer to think it helped to bring us where we are now.
“This is not a team of chokers. I am sure we will win the league.”
City’s 3-0 triumph over Wolves on Monday reduced Liverpool’s seven-point cushion to four.
But, despite Guardiola’s men romping to the title last season with a record 100-point haul, Mane insisted Liverpool are now the better side.
In an interview at the recent African Player of the Year awards in Senegal, he added: “Last season, City won the league because they were better.
“But now are they better? I don’t think so. We have a fantastic team — Man City are not better than we are.
“I respect anybody who thinks they are better but that is not true and we will prove it. Liverpool are a big team and we want to compete for every trophy.”
Pressure is building on Klopp to win his first piece of silverware at Anfield, following last season’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid.
Despite winning successive Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund in 2011 and 2012, the German, 51, has been on the receiving end of rival fans’ taunts and accused of being a serial choker after losing his last SIX major finals.
He was in charge of Liverpool’s 3-1 Europa League final defeat to Sevilla three years ago — and the League Cup penalty shootout loss to Manchester City in the same season.
But Mane hit back: “He is a great coach, not a choker.
“He has won titles before and he has lost titles. That is life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
Klopp says not signing Mane at Dortmund ranks as one of the biggest mistakes of his career.
He was finally able to correct that error when he paid Southampton £30million to bring him to Anfield in 2016.
Strike star Mane has already bagged eight league goals and an assist this season.
Liverpool’s 1-0 win at Brighton last Saturday showed they have recovered from their blip, when they lost 2-1 to City and then 2-1 to Wolves in the FA Cup third round.
They have conceded just ten league goals all season — thanks mainly to a watertight defence marshalled superbly by £75m Dutch colossus Virgil van Dijk.
But Mane said fellow Reds centre-back Dejan Lovren also deserves credit.
The Croatian was trolled when he claimed “People should recognise I am one of the best defenders in the world” before the start of the season.
Yet he helped Liverpool to last season’s Champions League final and his country to the World Cup final.
And Mane backed him, despite sniping from other fans.
He said: “I agree. Even now Dejan is one of the best defenders out there.
“He went to the World Cup and we saw what he did. In football it is normal for us to give ourselves morale in major competitions. So if he said he is the best defender in the world, why not?
“He was playing amazingly well, so there is no problem with that.”