Senegal's loss is Liverpool's gain as Mane returns early
ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 31, 2017 09:10 AM
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 file photo, Senegal's Sadio Mane, right, controls the ball past South Africa's Anele Ngcongca during their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea. The African Cup of Nations returns to Gabon for the second time in five years with the kickoff on Saturday Jan. 14, 2017 and the final on Feb. 5. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)
STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Senegal's heartbreaking loss in the African Cup of Nations could be Liverpool's gain in the Premier League.
Sadio Mane, Senegal's star player, was in despair after missing the decisive spot kick in a penalty shootout loss to Cameroon in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Gabon.
However, it's likely there were celebrations among Liverpool fans because it means the forward will soon be on his way back to Merseyside to help the team in its stumbling title challenge in the Premier League.
Liverpool sent a private jet to fly Mane back to England but he was not due to land until Monday. There's even a chance that Mane will play a part in Liverpool's game against Chelsea on Tuesday, but maybe only from the bench.
"He will be in tomorrow morning and we have to make a decision," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said Monday. "We have to look in his eyes and see whatever is possible."
The forward's absence has coincided with Liverpool's worst run of results since Klopp took charge in October 2015, with the team winning only one of its seven games in all competitions since Mane left for Senegal duty.
The Reds were knocked out of both the FA Cup and League Cup last week and have collected two points from a possible nine in the league in 2017, dropping them to fourth in the standings.
Mane has scored nine league goals in his first season at Liverpool and has been a vital part of the most prolific forward line in the league. Without Mane's energy, Liverpool has looked ponderous going forward and its attacking shape has suffered.
Klopp has been looking for a catalyst to revive Liverpool's season and Mane's return could be it.
"Faith is not something you have today and tomorrow you don't have," Klopp said. "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."
Liverpool is 10 points adrift of Chelsea, which has an eight-point lead over second-place Arsenal heading into a full round of midweek matches spread over Tuesday and Wednesday.
Here's what else to look out for in the 23rd round of the Premier League:
WEST HAM vs. MANCHESTER CITY
Sergio Aguero is a doubt for City on Wednesday because of a back injury sustained against Tottenham last week, but City has cover.
Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus made his first start for City in the 3-0 win over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Saturday, and could keep his place if Aguero isn't fit.
In more positive news for City manager Pep Guardiola, Fernandinho is available again after a four-match suspension and captain Vincent Kompany completed 90 minutes against Palace on his first senior appearance since November following his latest injury setback.
MANCHESTER UNITED vs. HULL
These two teams should know each other well.
Wednesday's match will be the third meeting between United and Hull in the past three weeks, after their double-header in the League Cup semifinals. They shared one victory each, but United advanced on aggregate.
United hasn't lost in 13 Premier League games and is in sixth place, two points behind fifth-place City and four points behind Liverpool in the final Champions League spot.
In other matches involving contenders for Champions League qualification, Arsenal is at home to Watford on Tuesday and third-place Tottenham is at last-place Sunderland.