Injured Sadio Mane the one Liverpool player who offers something different, says Gary Neville
The forward has been ruled out for up to six weeks following a hamstring injury sustained during Senegal’s World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde.
It is a huge blow for Jurgen Klopp’s side, as the Senegalese forward has been an integral mainstay and force in the Reds’ attack – especially as Liverpool face arch-rivals Manchester United in Saturday’s early kick-off.
Since arriving from Southampton last summer, Mane has scored 13 Premier League goals, and has a tally of three so far this season.
Despite an initial strong start to the season, the Reds have floundered in recent weeks, an underwhelming bout of form that can be traced back to when the Senegalese striker was sent off against Manchester City, which caused him to be suspended for three games. Liverpool missed him dearly.
Liverpool have struggled in recent weeks to put goalscoring chances away, having scored just six goals in September compared to 14 in August.
And now, Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has suggested that Mane is the only Liverpool player capable of offering a different dimension to the Reds’ attack.
“Sadio Mane has become such a force for Liverpool,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“He’s definitely the attacker who offers something different for Liverpool, but they have still got Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho so they do offer a real threat.”
Mane was ruled out by a season-ending injury last season in April’s Merseyside derby, and the Reds suffered from his loss. But now, however, with the addition of fellow speedster Salah, the Reds might fare better than they had last term.
“You would have never said before Mane joined he’d be the most pivotal player but you would now say, given what happened during the African Cup of Nations last season, losing him is a big psychological blow,” added Neville.
“However, they do have Salah, who does fill that speed gap and gives them something else, so that ultimately means the loss is less of an issue this time.”
Liverpool head into the fixture seventh in the league. Their most recent league fixture, a frustrating 1-1 against Newcastle, saw the Reds take 17 shots on goal but only make one count.
Though they have created the most chances in the league (101) – level with first-placed Manchester City – they have only scored 13 goals.
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, on the other hand, travel to Anfield second in the table on goal difference, having scored 21 times and boasting the best defensive record in the league.
Star striker Romelu Lukaku is in prolific form, having netted seven times.