COMMENT By Harvey Byrne
Sadio Mane could be the difference for Liverpool as they face Leicester in their first match of the new campaign at Anfield on Saturday.
The 24-year-old attacker joined the Reds from Southampton in a mega £34million deal this summer and he has got off to a brilliant start with the Merseyside club.
He scored a goal against Arsenal on his debut and his performance in Liverpool’s last Premier League match against Tottenham led to many comparing him to former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.
Mane missed Liverpool’s shock 2-0 loss against Burnley in the second match of the new season, and there were unfounded fears that he may miss the upcoming match against the Premier League champions, after being brought off on the hour mark in a match for Senegal.
However, Mane has assured fans that he will be fit to play against the Foxes and that the national team manager made the change to try out new players in his squad.
Mane started against Leicester twice last season for Southampton, but was unable to find the back of the net in either game.
However, in a much stronger Liverpool attack, he may find more opportunities against Leicester’s defence, and he will be relishing his first Premier League start in front of the Kop.
The pace of Mane would scare most defences in the Premier League, and full-back’s Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson will face a stern test across the 90 minutes with the attacker switching from one wing to the other in Jurgen Klopp’s fluid attack.
It is expected that Klopp will stick with his 4-3-3 formation against Leicester with Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho making up the attack.
Leicester are also sweating on the fitness of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, as he races against time to make the lineup.
The Danish shot stopper pulled up with an injury after kicking a ball in the most recent match against Swansea and he would be a big loss to Leicester’s defence.
Their loss would be Liverpool and Mane’s gain as new summer signing Ron-Robert Zieler would look to take up the position in Claudio Ranieri’s side.
The match will be shown on BT Sport in the 5.30pm kick-off slot.
In other Liverpool team news, the Reds were among a number of European clubs to make an offer for Hoffenheim’s commanding young centre-back Niklas Sule.