Sadio Mane has been called up to the Senegal squad for the March international break, but it shouldn’t affect Liverpool as severely as usual.
The 24-year-old has been included in Aliou Cisse’s 26-man selection for two friendlies at the end of the month, as they prepare for another Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.
Mane was named alongside three other Premier League representatives in Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate and Mame Biram Diouf, as well as the likes of Balde Keita and Moussa Sow.
These will be the Lions of Teranga’s first games since suffering defeat to Cameroon in the quarter-finals of the AFCON in January.
That stint in Gabon saw Liverpool struggle without Mane, and the winger took time to get going on his return to the field, finally hitting his stride again at home to Tottenham on February 11.
He is unlikely to suffer a similar decline, however, with Senegal’s upcoming clashes providing a much more manageable travelling schedule.
First they take on Nigeria at Barnet’s Hive Stadium on March 23, before travelling to Paris to take on the Ivory Coast at the Stade Sebastien-Charlety on March 27.
This means that the farthest Mane will have travelled from Merseyside will be 516 miles, a tenth of the distance between Liverpool and Franceville.
The Reds will play their last game before the international break on Sunday, when they take on top-four rivals Man City at the Etihad Stadium.
Jurgen Klopp‘s squad will then embark on duty with their respective nations, with the German setting off to Tenerife with those not involved for another warm-weather training camp.
Liverpool then welcome Everton to Anfield on April 1 as they resume their domestic campaign, with four days between Mane’s last outing for Senegal and the Merseyside derby.
In theory, this should allow Mane to return fresh and ready to start against the Toffees, and this could be crucial.
However, it’s not so good news for Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino who have been included in the Brazil squad to take on Uruguay (March 23) and Paraguay (March 29), and they will face a race against time to get back.
Brazil manager Tite is likely to rely upon both as part of his starting lineup, due to injury to Gabriel Jesus.
And with their clash with Paraguay set for 1.45am (GMT) on Wednesday, their 5,919-mile trip back will see them arrive back on Merseyside on Thursday, leaving just one day to prepare for the derby.