Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said that forward Sadio Mane could play a part in the Reds’ opening 2019/20 Premier League game against Norwich on tonight.
LiverpoolFC.com reported pre-match press conference quotes from Klopp in which he said “He looks fit. Yes, he is an option” when asked about the possibility of Mane featuring against the Canaries.
Klopp added that the 27-year-old has looked sharp since returning to Liverpool training this week after playing a part in Senegal’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations final last month, as reported by LiverpoolFC.com.
Mane played in the final of that tournament on July 19th and, despite The Mirror reporting that he would likely miss the start of the Premier League season, Klopp said in his pre-match press conference that the Senegal forward is “in good spirits and looking forward to it“. [via LiverpoolFC.com]
The importance of Mane to Liverpool’s line-up cannot be understated, with the forward’s 22 Premier League goals last season making him the division’s joint top scorer with team-mate Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Also, while the Reds have Salah and Xherdan Shaqiri on the right-hand side of attack and Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi and Rhian Brewster as centre-forwards, Mane’s only natural left-sided attacking backup is Ryan Kent, who has not played for Liverpool’s first team since January 2016.
It wasn’t just the quantity of his goals that proved vital for the Reds last season, either. During a two-month spell from February to March when Salah did not score, Mane stepped up to fill the void with five goals in the Premier League and two in the 3-1 victory away to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Also, while Liverpool’s African attacking duo both scored 22 league goals last term, Mane was more efficient than Salah, having scored his tally in 3,086 minutes compared to the Egypt forward’s 3,262.
With Mane not having played in three weeks, Klopp may feel that he isn’t quite fit enough to start against Norwich, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain possibly filling in on the left-hand side of the attack like he did in the Community Shield last Sunday.
However, the news that the Senegal forward is available to feature at Anfield for the Reds’ Premier League opener is very encouraging for Liverpool. Their title challenge last season was built on a strong start of 26 points from their opening 10 games and, with Manchester City setting an equally unrelenting pace, the Reds will likely need to be just as quick out of the blocks this time around, starting with Norwich this weekend.
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