Sadio Mane suffered a hamstring injury while on international duty with Senegal and will miss the next six weeks as Liverpool were dealt a significant blow ahead of the North-West Derby against arch-rivals man United.
Mane was subbed off in the 89th minute in a clash with Cape Verde, and he is now facing time on the sidelines, as Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp were left frustrated following another international break that cost them a key player.
The Senegal forward just returned from his three-match suspension and logged 74 minutes at St. James’ Park, but now cannot help his teammates in some crucial games in the next several weeks.
Sadio will be unavailable against United on Saturday, and then will miss duels with Spurs, Maribor and Sevilla in the Champions League, and finally, with Chelsea in the Premier League. In nine games this season, Mane recorded three goals and a pair of assists.
Now, Jurgen Klopp and his coaching staff must change their philosophy a bit and deploy different tactic for the biggest game of English football. The German tactician will lose on pace on the left wing, but he has players more than capable of stepping up and fill the void in Mane’s absence.
The first one in the line is undoubtedly Philippe Coutinho, who scored a goal in each of the previous three starts for Liverpool, following his reintegration to the first team. Let’s remind, the Brazilian was linked to Barcelona throughout the entire summer, and wasn’t delighted after the Reds were reluctant to let him go.
Still, he showed why he’s the best player at Anfield, especially with a fantastic strike against Newcastle United, so Coutinho is the right man to take Mane’s place on the left flank. The little magician is not powerful and speedy as Mane, but will provide creativity and could torture United’s keeper David de Gea from long range.
Coutinho’s spot up for grabs
Coutinho’s spot in the heart of midfield is up for grabs as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seems to be the proper fit for the role, assuming that both Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum take their usual holding midfielder places.
Emre Can could also break into the starting eleven if Klopp opts for a conservative, cautiously-minded strategy, but knowing the German manager; he will not give up on fielding an attacking midfielder.
Mohamed Salah has cemented a place on the right wing, as the Egyptian is currently the team’s top scorer with six goals to his name, while he added a couple of assists as well. The former Roma winger sent his country to the World Cup with a brace against Congo; it is the first time since 1990 that Egypt qualified for the strongest event in international football.
Salah and Coutinho have the ability to create disarray in the Red Devils’ box, and they must be considered as the potential match-winners.
The No. 9 conundrum
Who will get a start at the No. 9 position is still unknown, as both Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge are struggling at the moment.
Sturridge started against Newcastle but failed to impress, while the same can be said for Firmino’s second-half cameo. Firmino entered this campaign on a high note but is not in good form recently, which resulted in losing a starting spot.
Sturridge didn’t convert his chances into goals, and while Klopp remains patient with him, Jurgen could turn to the Brazilian quite soon.
Written by Oliver Zivic
Follow Oliver on Twitter @guli86
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