Klopp: Mane is just one player
But Liverpool manager is happy to have him back for Chelsea game
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.