As Liverpool head into a potentially do-or-die period in their season, news of Sadio Mane being ruled out for six weeks with a hamstring injury could hardly have come at a worse time.
Opta data lays bare just how quickly Mane became a key figure for Liverpool last season. He has been involved in 25 Premier League goals since his Reds debut, a figure bettered only by Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino (27 each).
The 25-year-old’s importance is also highlighted by Liverpool’s record without him in the starting XI, with Jurgen Klopp’s side winning 61.3 per cent of league games he has started and just 42.9 per cent of those he has not.
Although the injury comes relatively early in the season, Mane looks set to miss some crucial matches…
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 10, 2017
Manchester United (H), Saturday October 14
Having failed to win three of their last four Premier League matches, Liverpool could have done with having all their attacking firepower available for the visit of their bitter rivals United, who just happen to be joint top.
Jose Mourinho’s men have been one of the two standout teams so far this term alongside Manchester City, scoring an impressive 19 goals and conceding just two from seven matches.
While such rivalry clashes have an air of unpredictability around them, the presence of a fired-up Mane would certainly have improved Liverpool’s chances.
Tottenham (A), Sunday October 22
While Spurs have not been as explosively brilliant as United and City, particularly given their Wembley struggles, Mauricio Pochettino’s side are rarely an easy proposition and, in Harry Kane, have arguably one of the world’s form strikers.
Away to Spurs is likely to be one of Liverpool’s toughest fixtures of the Premier League season, despite their failure to win at the national stadium in the league thus far.
Both sides have designs on a title tilt, but with only one talisman on the pitch, Spurs could be well-favoured.
Sevilla (A), Tuesday November 21
Liverpool’s start in the Champions League has been by no means impressive, having drawn with both Sevilla and Spartak Moscow, and Mane looks to be out of their next three games Europe.
While Liverpool should, in theory, cope without him in their Maribor double-header, a journey to Sevilla in their penultimate group game is a far more daunting prospect.
Eduardo Berizzo’s men are second only to Barcelona in LaLiga after seven matches and boast a formidable home record, having not lost at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in any competition since November 2016.
Chelsea (H), Saturday November 25
Should Liverpool’s estimation of six weeks out prove accurate, Mane could be in contention to return against Chelsea when Antonio Conte’s reigning champions visit Anfield.
Regardless how the interim period goes, Klopp will undoubtedly be desperate for Mane to be involved as it is not a fixture Liverpool have done particularly well in over the last few years.
In fact, their last win over Chelsea at Anfield in any competition was more than five years ago – a 4-1 victory in May 2012. Could Mane’s return be the catalyst to ending that hoodoo?
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