Sadio Mane has accepted that Liverpool’s title defence is “over,” with the forward describing winning the Champions League as the “main, main target” from now.
The Reds are now sitting five positions and 19 points below Premier League leaders Man City, and with only 39 points left to play for it is highly unlikely they will retain their title.
That has been acknowledged by Jurgen Klopp and his squad, who are on a run of four consecutive defeats in the league, and head to bottom-placed Sheffield United on Sunday in desperate need of a victory.
A glimmer of hope remains in the Champions League, however, with a 2-0 win over RB Leipzig in the first leg of their last-16 clash putting Liverpool in a strong position to advance to the quarter-finals.
And Mane believes the “main, main, main target” is now winning the European Cup for the seventh time, along with finishing in the Premier League‘s top four.
“Our target from the beginning was Champions League, Premier League and the cups,” he told ESPN Brasil.
“Now, I can say it’s over for the Premier League, because the [gap] is too much.
“In our heads it’s always never give up – and we won’t give up – but Manchester is a great team and they’re flying, and for sure, being in the top four, right now, is our main target.
“But the Champions League is our main, main, main target – to win it, not be second.
“It won’t be easy, because we’re going to face the best teams in Europe, but we’re here to beat the best in the world.
“So we’ll do everything possible to go for it and to win the Champions League.”
Liverpool will be desperate to book their place in next season’s Champions League by any means necessary as, despite the prestige of their recent success under Klopp, it is imperative to strengthening the squad moving forward.
The most traditional route is to finish in the top four at domestic level, but given the competition in the Premier League – with Man United, Leicester, West Ham, Chelsea and Everton also in the running – winning the Champions League could be seen as ‘safer’.
If they are able to put Leipzig behind them in the last 16, the Reds would then be pitted against only two other sides on their way to the final – one in the quarter-finals, one in the semi-finals.
As Mane admits, however, these will be among “the best teams in Europe,” but the No. 10 is clearly relishing the challenge to prove himself against the top clubs again.