Football

Red tape delays Mane return

Speedy Senegal forward remains a doubt for Liverpool's crunch match against league leaders Chelsea

LIVERPOOL CHELSEA

Liverpool fans are desperate for Sadio Mane to start in the crunch match against English Premier League leaders Chelsea tomorrow morning (Singapore time), following a run of poor results.

In Mane's absence - his last game was the 2-2 draw at Sunderland on Jan 2 - Liverpool have won just once (against 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 this month.

However, Liverpool's efforts to get Mane home from the African Nations Cup as quickly as possible were frustrated by red tape to further complicate his availability for the Chelsea visit to Anfield.

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, therefore meaning he missed team training.

Liverpool will have another session today and manager Juergen Klopp will have to decide 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 by Cameroon.

"I don't know exactly (when he will be available)," said Klopp yesterday.

"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 board the plane so we had to wait. He will be here tonight, but I spoke to him and it is all good.

"He will be in tomorrow and we have to make a decision. We have to look in his eyes and see whatever is possible."

TOO MUCH EXPECTATION

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 Mane.

"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," Klopp said.

"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 Philippe 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."

Klopp accepts some confidence has seeped away from his side after just one win in eight games and the free-flowing, eye-catching football they were playing seems a distant memory.

"We spoke about confidence a few months ago and I said it's a little flower," said Klopp, after his side had been knocked out by second-tier Wolves from the FA Cup on Saturday.

"If something bounces on it, then it's away. Obviously, that happened kind of, but it's not that we play without confidence.

"I can see a lot of moments when we really still believe in our skills and all that stuff. So we don't have to make it too big, but it's not that difficult.

"It's not that I say there's no chance until Tuesday to make a real turn.

"Somebody asked me a second ago if this is the lowest point of my Liverpool time until now - I don't know. But if it is, it's the perfect point to turn because it's not possible to go lower.

"That's all we have to think about now. It is a home game against the leaders of the league and we need everyone for the game."

Liverpool have doubts over right-back Nathaniel Clyne, who has missed two games with an abdominal injury, and midfielder Adam Lallana.

Lallana missed the Wolves game after requiring stitches in a leg wound he suffered during the 1-0 League Cup semi-final second-leg defeat by Southampton last Wednesday. - WIRE SERVICES

eplliverpoolCHELSEA (EPL)