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Thursday 14 December 2017

Liverpool a Man' down for United

Klopp will have to cope without talismanic attacker Sadio

Liverpool's Sadio Mane. Photo: PA Wire
Liverpool's Sadio Mane. Photo: PA Wire

Liverpool have been dealt a huge blow just days before the visit of arch-rivals Manchester United after Sadio Mane was ruled out for six weeks with a hamstring injury.

The pacy forward was injured on international duty with Senegal and his absence could not have come at a worse time as manager Jurgen Klopp looks to get their season back on track after an indifferent September.

"The winger was substituted 89 minutes into Senegal's 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over the Cape Verde Islands on Saturday," said a Liverpool statement.

"And it has now been confirmed that he picked up an injury during that fixture that could keep him out of action for up to six weeks."

Mane, who scored 13 Premier League goals last season despite missing the whole of January due to the African Nations Cup and the final six weeks of the campaign with a knee injury, has three in four league matches so far.

The 25-year-old has endured a difficult last six months after a brilliant start to his Anfield career.

He tore the meniscus in a knee during April's Merseyside derby which prematurely ended his season and required surgery.

Having worked hard in pre-season to get back to fitness the forward began the campaign with three goals in his first four appearances before a red card at Manchester City on September 9 resulted in a three-match ban and halted his progress.

Since his debut in August 2016 Liverpool average 2.2 Premier League goals with Mane in the team, compared to 1.6 goals in his absence.

When he went to the African Nations Cup in January, Liverpool won just once in seven matches in all competitions.

They coped better when his knee injury ruled him out in early April, with five wins, two draws and a defeat and the arrivals of Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were supposed to add more depth to their attacking options and lessen the blow of losing him again.

Deadline

Salah has scored six in 11 games this season, making him the club's leading scorer, but Oxlade-Chamberlain's chances have been few and far between having joined on deadline day.

Liverpool's 2016-17 season fell apart during Mane's absence at the African Nations Cup in January - in the seven matches he missed, their only win came against League Two Plymouth in an FA Cup replay.

Their two Premier League matches in that period brought a creditable 1-1 draw away to Manchester United but also a 3-2 home defeat to Swansea which dropped them to fourth in the Premier League - the position in which they would ultimately finish.

They also lost each leg of their League Cup semi-final to Southampton 1-0 and, after a goalless draw and 1-0 win against Argyle, exited the FA Cup 2-1 against Wolves.

They have already had to cope without Mane for some of this season, domestically at least, after his red card against Manchester City led to a three-match ban.

It was during that run of fixtures that concerns over Liverpool's accuracy in front of goal came into sharp focus- Jurgen Klopp's side had 79 shots in the games he missed, just 18 of which were on target.

That brought them only four goals across a 1-1 Premier League draw with Burnley and back-to-back meetings with Leicester, who knocked Liverpool out of the Carabao Cup before the Reds responded with a 3-2 league win.

He has scored three goals in his five Premier League games this term, one of which was his abbreviated appearance against City, and his absence for big games against Manchester United on Saturday and Tottenham next week potentially spells bad news for Liverpool.

Since the start of last season with Mane in the team, they have won 19 of 32 Premier League games and averaged 2.2 goals and 2.1 points per match in the process. Without him, that drops to six wins from 13 with 1.6 goals and 1.7 points per game.

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