Sadio Mane remains a doubt for Liverpool’s key Chelsea clash
Senegal forward misses training as private jet is delayed after African Nations Cup exit
Sadio Mane missed the deciding penalty as Senegal were dumped out of the African Nations Cup by Cameroon. Photograph: AFP/Khaled Desouki
Liverpool’s efforts to get Sadio Mane home from the African Nations Cup as quickly as possible were frustrated by red tape to further complicate his availability for Tuesday’s crucial game at home to Chelsea.
The club sent a private jet to Gabon on Sunday following Senegal’s exit from the competition but the issues with the flight delayed his arrival back home until the evening, therefore meaning he missed team training.
Liverpool will have another session on Tuesday and manager Jurgen Klopp will have to decide then whether to include the player, at best as a substitute, who was distraught after missing the critical penalty in a 5-4 shoot-out quarter-final defeat to Cameroon.
“I don’t know exactly (when he will be available),” said Klopp.
“The club did an outstanding job to bring him back as soon as possible and he is now on his way.
“We thought it would be possible yesterday: we had a plane there but he was not allowed to go in the plane so we had to wait.
“He will be here tonight but I spoke to him and it is all good so far.
“He will be in tomorrow morning and we have to make a decision. We have to look in his eyes and see whatever is possible.”
In Mane’s absence — his last game was the 2-2 draw at Sunderland on January 2nd — Liverpool have won just once (against Sky Bet League Two Plymouth) in seven matches and scored only five goals.
The 24-year-old’s return is being seen as an immediate solution to the malaise which has affected them in January.
And, while Klopp is delighted to have the club’s joint-top scorer this season back, he is keen not to load too much expectation on him.
“It was a strange situation in the Senegal game against Cameroon and I wish not for one second he missed the penalty at the end but it happened so he is coming back,” he added.
“He is a quality player. It is easier if you have him in the team or around the team than when you don’t have him. That’s fair.
“But it is not that he can decide games by himself or we should expect this.
“We came through December and most of January without Phil Coutinho (who was out for nearly seven weeks with ankle ligament damage).
“I spoke about a few reasons about why it was not good in January but I don’t want to think about the last few games any more.
“He is kind of an option for the Chelsea game. He is back at least for the Hull game and that is good for us.
“We have to decide whether we can involve him for tomorrow somehow or not.
“Everything is like it was before he left. It is a very good player back for selection, that can only be good news.”