Sadio Mane’s return to Liverpool is welcome news for Jurgen Klopp. The Reds midfielder has been absent at the Africa Cup of Nations over the past few weeks. Mane scored nine goals and made four assists in his opening 19 games in the Premier League before the forward headed off to the AFCON. There is no doubt about that Liverpool lack pace without Mane, making it difficult for Klopp’s side to navigate a way past opposition defences, with Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino not players to break the gain line. Getting Mane back to his best after the AFCON will be key to Liverpool’s hopes of a top four finish.
Another of Liverpool’s African players has been a big miss. Joel Matip struggled with fitness and administration problems over the festive period before his return to the Liverpool starting line-up for their 1-1 draw with Chelsea. It’s resulted in a lack of consistency and understanding at the back, which perhaps explains their lack of cohesion when it comes to defending set-pieces. Hopefully a consistent run in the Liverpool starting line-up can help improve their defensive record in the final months of the season.
While Liverpool have struggled at home over the past two months following stalemates with West Ham and Chelsea and a loss to Swansea City, Klopp will be hoping Anfield advantage can prove decisive when Liverpool host some of their big top-four rivals. The former Borussia Dortmund manager has a great record against Liverpool’s biggest rivals. With that in mind, home games against Arsenal and Tottenham give Klopp’s men the chance to make some serious progress in their bid to secure a long-awaited return to the Champions League.
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