Liverpool winger Sadio Mane could be facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, as he awaits the results of a scan on his injured knee.
The 24-year-old was forced off the field after 57 minutes in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Everton at Anfield, delivering a crippling blow to the Reds’ top-four hopes.
Mane has arguably been Liverpool’s most important player in 2016/17, and currently stands as top goalscorer with 13 and second-top assist-maker with eight.
But as Jurgen Klopp seeks to secure Champions League football with a strong finish to the season, he could be forced to do so without his £30 million summer signing.
According to the Telegraph, the club are “increasingly worried” about Mane’s injury, with swelling in his knee yet to go down.
This has left them fearing the worst, and Mane could well miss the rest of the season, with Liverpool expecting a clearer picture when results of a scan arrive on Tuesday.
There are though contrasting reports, with some claims the influential forward could only be sidelined for three weeks.
Hearing from elsewhere that Mane will be around 3 weeks, but tests are ongoing. Difficult to be precise due to swelling around the knee #LFC
— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) April 4, 2017
Klopp is likely to deliver an update on Mane’s condition as he previews the Reds’ upcoming clash with Bournemouth on Tuesday (1pm), but the Senegalese will certainly be unavailable against the Cherries and Stoke this week.
If Mane is out for an extended period, Klopp will be forced to find a solution, or risk losing momentum at a crucial stage.
It is likely that Divock Origi will step in for Mane on Wednesday night at Anfield, after scoring the third goal of the Reds’ Merseyside derby win.
The Belgian has been underlining his ambitions after notching his ninth strike of the season, but having endured an inconsistent run so far, he will need to improve to cover for Mane.
Liverpool undoubtedly suffered with Mane was absent in January, while away with Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Klopp’s failure to address this in the transfer market was widely criticised.
Now, the Reds have eight more games left to play between now and May, and Klopp will be desperate to ensure that the reluctance to sign an alternative is not an issue.
Either way, the hope is that Mane is not ruled out for the remainder of the campaign, with a short layoff still possible.
The best-case scenario would surely still see Mane miss Saturday’s clash with Stoke City, while a seven-day break could present him with the opportunity to recover to feature away to West Brom on April 16.