Klopp: Mane is just one player

But Liver­pool man­ager is happy to have him back for Chelsea game

The National - News - Sport - - FOOTBALL - Richard Jolly English foot­ball cor­re­spon­dent sports@thena­tional.ae

Jur­gen Klopp has warned that Liver­pool can­not ex­pect the re­turn­ing Sadio Mane to end the worst run of his reign on his own.

Liver­pool have lost three con­sec­u­tive games for the first time un­der the Ger­man and have been elim­i­nated from the League Cup and the FA Cup in the past week.

They host Pre­mier League lead­ers Chelsea tonight with Mane re­turn­ing from the Africa Cup of Na­tions af­ter Liver­pool only won one of the seven games the winger missed. Own­ers Fen­way Sports Group paid for a pri­vate plane to bring him back af­ter Sene­gal’s quar­ter-fi­nal de­feat to Cameroon, where Mane him­self missed the de­ci­sive penalty in the shootout, but it was not able to take off on Sun­day.

“We have a very good player back for se­lec­tion,” man­ager Klopp said. “I wish he hadn’t missed the penalty but he did. Now he’s com­ing back. He’s an op­tion for Chelsea. This is good news.

“He’s a qual­ity player and it’s eas­ier when you have him around the team. But you can’t ex­pect him to de­cide games by him­self.” In Mane’s ab­sence, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lal­lana have both had to take up his usual po­si­tion on the right. The English­man, who missed Satur­day’s 2-1 de­feat to Wolves with a cut to his leg, could re­turn but right-back Nathaniel Clyne seems likely to miss out, mean­ing 18-year-old Trent Alexan­der-Arnold could start.

“Lal­lana has trained, ‘Clyney’ no,” Klopp said. “We have to as­sess it. We can’t force it.”

While Liver­pool are 10 points be­hind Chelsea, Klopp has not given up hope of win­ning the ti­tle.

“A lot of peo­ple are think­ing at the mo­ment it is dif­fi­cult for Liver­pool – and it is dif­fi­cult – but not im­pos­si­ble,” he said.

Chelsea have only dropped 11 points but Klopp pointed out: “We have no re­spon­si­bil­ity for Chelsea’s near-per­fect sea­son.”

Liver­pool beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stam­ford Bridge in Septem­ber, one of two de­feats that prompted An­to­nio Conte to a change in for­ma­tion that re­sulted in a run of 15 vic­to­ries in 16 games.

Now he faces the re­verse fix­tures, with his side host­ing Arse­nal on Satur­day, but the Ital­ian said: “The league doesn’t fin­ish af­ter these two games.” Conte was com­pli­men­tary about Liver­pool and ar­gued their re­cent re­sults owe much to mis­for­tune.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to ex­plain,” he said. “I watched their games. I think they were un­lucky. This is tough.”

Whereas Liver­pool are un­beaten against sides in the top six this sea­son, Chelsea have al­ready suf­fered three de­feats to their peers. “When you face teams of the same level it’s im­por­tant to win for con­fi­dence,” Conte said. “But the difficulty is high.”

He ex­pects re­serve goal­keeper As­mir Be­govic, who is a tar­get for Bournemouth, to be in his squad at An­field. Chelsea, who have been linked with Celtic’s Craig Gor­don, would need to sign a re­place­ment if the Bos­nian left.


Sadio Mane re­turns to Liver­pool af­ter in­ter­na­tional duty.

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