Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed that Sadio Mane is back to full fitness, and is therefore available to face Southampton at the weekend, presenting Yan Valery with an undoubtedly testing battle.
The former Saints winger returned to training late after representing Senegal in the latter stages of the Africa Cup of Nations. As a consequence of this shortage of preparation, he was limited only to a substitute appearance against Norwich City on Friday night.
However, ahead of Liverpool’s UEFA Super Cup final outing against Chelsea on Wednesday, Klopp confirmed that Mane is now fully fit and ready for selection.
As quoted by the Reds’ official club website, he said:
I think he would have been ready to start on Friday, but after five days and having two players on the pitch with pretty much no pre-season up front you have to look a little bit at how you can do it.
It’s not clear from the first second which three players you have to change, especially with them, which kills all your plans when the goalie [Alisson] leaves the pitch that early. So I think it was the right thing to do, but he’s for sure fresher now, fitter now, and yeah, he is ready.
Read Southampton’s verdict
Coming up against one of the best wingers in world football is always going to be a daunting task, but it’s one that Valery should relish ahead of Saturday afternoon’s fixture.
Mane is not yet 100 per cent, and while he has all the qualities to hurt Saints, he has hardly set the world alight in previous fixtures against his former side. He will be a dangerous player for Liverpool throughout the season and is, after all, a world-class talent, but Valery has dealt with him before and has the ability to limit his influence somewhat again.
The Frenchman will need support from his midfielders and fellow defenders, of course, but he has come on leaps and bounds in the space of less than a year and will be keen to test himself against the best.
It will make for an intriguing battle between Valery and Mane – whose boots were once cleaned by the Saints academy graduate – this weekend.