Klopp gives update on Mane ahead of Liverpool vs. Chelsea

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Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool is stuck in a rut.

Getting Sadio Mane back should help with that.

[ MORE: Payet slammed by Hammers ]

On Saturday Mane missed the decisive penalty kick against Cameroon as Senegal were knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations 2017 at the quarterfinal stage.

Bad news for Mane internationally is good news for Liverpool as their lightning-quick forward, and top scorer this season, is on his way back to England and is in contention to play against Chelsea on Tuesday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

If Mane can play some part at Anfield for the ailing Reds — Klopp’s side have lost three games at home in a week heading into this game — it will be a massive boost as they host the Premier League leaders knowing only a win will do to keep their fading title hopes alive.

“Ray Haughan and our team management did an outstanding job to bring him back as soon as possible and he is now on his way,” Klopp said. “We had the plane there but he was not allowed to go in the plane and we had to wait to get him from A to B. I spoke to him and it is all good so far. We will be in tomorrow morning and I will make a decision. I will have to look into his eyes and see if it is possible.”

Something else Klopp doesn’t know is possible is if his team can recover from a brutal seven days which has seen them dumped out of two cup competitions and suffer a defeat to then bottom of the table Swansea City.

With Liverpool the heavy favorites in all three of their recent home defeats to Swansea, Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers, Klopp knows his side will be underdogs against Chelsea on Tuesday as Antonio Conte‘s side looked to stretch their lead above Liverpool to 13 points and all but end the Reds’ title hopes for another season.

Klopp is staying positive despite the high stakes being obvious.

“It’s very important we build on the good things,” Klopp said. “Is it allowed to go for the best position in the Premier League? I really think we should try everything to make the best of the base we made. Stay positive. It’s possible we could qualify for Champions League.”

Despite all the early season euphoria surrounding this Liverpool team and their dynamic attack, there’s been plenty of talk about a second half of the season collapse with many questioning Klopp’s Gegenpressing tactics and the lack of a winter break in England impacting his team. That said, when you look at Mane’s absence, plus Joel Matip and Phillipe Coutinho missing, there has been plenty of adversity for them to battle through and quite frankly the likes of Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge and Ragnar Klavan (all of whom are classified as squad players) have struggled to plug the gaps and step up to the plate when needed.

Liverpool will need to be bold and brave to get a result against Chelsea on Tuesday. If they win they’ll blow the title race open again. If they lose, it’s game over for their own title hopes and it will be an uphill battle to regain momentum and challenge for the top four spot that Klopp and the Kop crave.

Finishing in the top four should have always been Liverpool’s main target this season. Now it’s the only target they have left. The pressure is on.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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