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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Mane being flown back to Anfield

Private plane to fly forward back as Chelsea game looms

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane could be set for a place in the squad for tomorrow's visit of Premier League leaders Chelsea after Senegal's exit from the African Nations Cup.

It's understood the club have scheduled a private jet to fly home the player after his country was knocked out by Cameroon in the quarter-finals.

Mane was distraught on Saturday night after missing the critical penalty in a 5-4 shootout defeat and it remains to be seen whether Jurgen Klopp will throw him straight back in.

The 24-year-old would have to at least train today to stand a chance of making the bench at Anfield the following evening.

His absence has coincided with the worst run of results since Klopp took over.

Liverpool have won only once since his last involvement in the 2-2 draw at struggling Sunderland on January 2, have been knocked out of both the EFL and FA Cups and seen their title challenge falter to such an extent they are now battling to stay in the top four.

Klopp, however, has not lost faith in the quality of his squad despite seeing a second-string side dumped out of the FA Cup.

Three times in the knockout competition this month the German has fielded a team lacking most of what would be classed as first-teamers, and on every occasion they have struggled - only getting past League Two side Plymouth in a scrappy replay.

Miserable

Saturday's 2-1 fourth-round defeat to 18th-placed Championship side Wolves capped a mis erable week of three home losses - including two cup exits.

Chelsea's visit raises the very realistic prospect of four defeats at Anfield on the bounce for the first time since 1923 and only the second time in their 125-year history. Klopp has been criticised for not strengthening in January.

It turned out to be a month they began in second place and still in two cup competitions - just 180 minutes away from Wembley in one - and instead relying heavily on fringe players and youngsters to fill in.

It has backfired and increased the scrutiny on him and his judgement from some quarters.

"It is not about not wanting - it is about not getting the right players in the transfer window," Klopp said of his attempts to bring in new faces.

"But it is not right to judge people in a very bad moment. Faith is not something you have today and tomorrow you don't have.

"For each single performance there is an explanation. I am not sure we should look for it.

"I am never too harsh in criticism and especially you should not be too emotional in the moment when you make criticism because it makes no sense.

"I cannot change after a worse or better performance and say 'Now he's world class' or 'Now I cannot use him'.

"We have to go through situations like this and, even in the history of Liverpool, better sides lost against worse sides. That is football. I don't like it but it is true.

"I don't start doubting decisions because it makes no sense.

"We could have played better but I don't feel that they let me down.

"Hopefully we all can recover and the crowd can recover and look forward to the game on Tuesday.

"It is a home game against the leader of the league and we need everyone for the game."

The visit of Chelsea suddenly takes on a significance, both in terms of psychologically and in Premier League reality, much greater than would usually be attributed to the arrival of the league leaders.

Klopp needs a performance from his first-choice side, who, combined with the second string, have won just once in eight matches in January.

They will need to defend much better against Antonio Conte's table-toppers than they did against Wolves.

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