Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool is stuck in a rut.
Getting Sadio Mane back should help with that.
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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.