Liverpool's Mane ready to start against Chelsea after short break

By Sports Desk August 13, 2019

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane insists he will be ready to start Wednesday's UEFA Super Cup clash with Chelsea.

Mane returned to training last Monday after being given a 16-day break following Senegal's run to the Africa Cup of Nations final, where they were beaten 1-0 by Algeria.

The 27-year-old missed the whole of Liverpool's pre-season campaign, including the penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester City in the Community Shield, but he was back as a second-half substitute against Norwich City.

After getting 16 minutes under his belt in the 4-1 win at Anfield, Mane vowed he is raring to go against Chelsea in Istanbul.

"I think I am ready. Tiredness I think is here [pointing to his head]," he said at a news conference on the eve of Wednesday's match.

"For sure I have been playing for a long time. I don't think I've had a holiday of more than 20 days in seven years.

"I'm used to it. For sure, I'm ready. I'm here. Let's do it!"

Liverpool's victory against Norwich came at a cost as Brazil goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who also missed a large part of pre-season because of international commitments, pulled up with a calf injury that will see him miss the rest of the month.

Recently-signed Adrian will step in for Alisson at the Vodafone Arena and he was backed to impress on his first start for the Reds by new team-mate Virgil van Dijk.

"Adrian has been in now for his second week. We have been working day in, day out," Van Dijk told reporters.

"For him it’s obviously very good that he starts playing straight away. It’s not the situation you hope to be in, that Alisson is injured and you have to come in.

"But he’s experienced enough to go out there and show his qualities because he has plenty of quality. He played for so many years in the Premier League and we could already see in training how good he can be.

"He needs our support - we all do it together, we defend together. We need him there, he needs us as well. He will definitely do the job."

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    Andy Robertson insists Liverpool have gained a reputation in Europe that makes them a team to avoid in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

    The Reds remain on course to defend their continental crown after beating Salzburg 2-0 on Tuesday to secure a place in Monday's last-16 draw in Nyon.

    Jurgen Klopp's side beat domestic rivals Tottenham 2-0 in last season's final, a year on from losing to Real Madrid in the showpiece fixture.

    Having finished top of Group E, Liverpool can face one of Real Madrid, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund or Lyon in the next round.

    Robertson believes each of those sides would rather dodge a trip to Anfield as the reigning champions aim to reach the final for a third year running.

    "That is the atmosphere we have created in the last two years - a team which has been to the final twice and we are respected in this tournament," Robertson told reporters, quoted by several British newspapers.

    "Maybe the first season when we went to the final, I don't think we were really respected until after we went to Porto and washed them away.

    "We did not get the respect we deserved. Now, we know we are respected in Europe. No one will want us but everyone who gets into the last 16 will fancy themselves.

    "It is the toughest tournament. The teams you come up against are outstanding and will fancy themselves. Everyone is confident. And when you get to the last 16 you get to the nitty-gritty."

    Liverpool lead the way in the Premier League and have knocked the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Barcelona out of the Champions League in the past two seasons.

    But Robertson, who has featured 24 times in UEFA's flagship competition, concedes Liverpool now have a target on their back as reigning champions.

    "Last year and the year before we have been excellent in the knockout stages and we have controlled games, but we know that now we are the champions everyone wants to beat us," he said.

    "That is what we have to deal with and hopefully we can deal with it well. But there are about 40 games between now and the last 16 so we will worry about that when the time comes.

    "We need to keep proving why people don't want to play against us. We know it will be tough, but we look forward to the challenge as we want to go far in this tournament again and we have made a big step."

  • Champions League knockout stage dominated by Europe's top-tier nations Champions League knockout stage dominated by Europe's top-tier nations

    Europe's top five leagues have monopolised the Champions League knockout stage for the first time in the competition's history.

    With Atalanta's 3-0 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk, the Serie A side ensured only nations from Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain would complete the last-16 line up prior to the final group fixtures on Wednesday.

    Atalanta's win left only one place in the last 16 to be decided, with Atletico Madrid's 2-0 triumph over Lokomotiv Moscow – combined with a 2-0 loss for Bayer Leverkusen at home to Juventus – enough to send Diego Simeone's men through.

    It is the first time only teams from the top-tier nations in European football have been included in the draw for the knockout stage, which will take place on Monday.

    England – Premier League: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham

    Chelsea and Liverpool had the biggest scares of the group stage when it came to the English sides, though both ultimately qualified.

    Current holders Liverpool put in a clinical second-half display to dispatch Salzburg 2-0 in their final Group E match, with Frank Lampard's side progressing from Group H thanks to a 2-1 win over Lille – last season's semi-finalists Ajax dropping into the Europa League despite amassing 10 points

    Tottenham were on the wrong end of a 7-2 hammering by Bayern Munich in October, but three successive victories sent them through prior to their second meeting with the German champions, while Manchester City qualified as Group C winners.

    France – Ligue 1: Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain

    Paris Saint-Germain look like they mean business this season and, after ensuring their place in the next round with a 2-2 comeback draw away at Real Madrid, capped off their Group A campaign in style with a 5-0 thrashing of lowly Galatasaray.

    Neymar starred on Wednesday, with Mauro Icardi, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani all scoring too – with their star-studded forward line in such form, Thomas Tuchel's side should be some force in the knockouts.

    Memphis Depay was the hero for Lyon, meanwhile, as his 82nd-minute equaliser against RB Leipzig sent Rudi Garcia's side from bottom up to second.

    Germany – Bundesliga: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig

    Along with PSG, Bayern were the standout performers of the group stage – their haul of 18 points and a goal difference of +19 making them the best group winner in Champions League history.

    Leipzig made history when they secured their first participation in the knockout stage thanks to Emil Forsberg's double against Benfica on matchday five in Group G, though Borussia Dortmund had to see off Slavia Prague 2-1 in their final Group F game – and rely on Barcelona to defeat Inter.

    Italy – Serie A: Atalanta, Juventus, Napoli

    Atalanta seemed on the brink after three straight defeats to start their Group C campaign, yet Gian Piero Gasperini's side battled back – a draw with City and wins over Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar continuing their Champions League adventure, becoming the first side to go through after losing their opening three matches.

    Juventus' tally of 16 points in Group D saw them equal their own record – set in 1996-97 and matched in 2004-05 – while Napoli hammered Genk 4-0 on Tuesday to book their last-16 berth, though it was not enough to keep Carlo Ancelotti in his job.

    There will be no place in the last 16 for Serie A leaders Inter, though, with Antonio Conte's side dropping into the Europa League.

    Spain – LaLiga: Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia

    LaLiga, like the Premier League, will have four representatives in the knockout stage. Barca were unconvincing at times in Group F, but had enough to seal their spot with a game to spare before ending Inter's hopes.

    Atleti needed to overcome Lokomotiv on matchday six, but did so easily enough thanks to Joao Felix and Felipe – though Kieran Trippier missed an early penalty – and their city rivals Real Madrid ultimately easily progressed from Group A despite a chastening defeat to PSG in their opening match.

    Valencia were involved in a mighty tussle with Chelsea and Ajax, who beat them 3-0 in their first home match, but eventually topped Group H thanks to a 1-0 win over the Eredivisie champions on Tuesday.

  • Madrid will eliminate Liverpool in Champions League last 16, jokes Zidane Madrid will eliminate Liverpool in Champions League last 16, jokes Zidane

    Zinedine Zidane joked his Real Madrid side would have no issues beating last season's winners Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League.

    The LaLiga giants had already secured their knockout berth before their 3-1 win over Club Brugge on Wednesday and can now turn their attention to the draw for the next stage, which takes place on Monday.

    Hans Vanaken cancelled out Rodrygo Goes' opener within the space of two second-half minutes, but a first Champions League goal for Vinicius Junior and a sublime strike from Luka Modric sealed all three points for Zidane's side.

    Madrid finished second in Group A, five points behind Paris Saint-Germain, which means they will be drawn against the winners of another group, potentially Jurgen Klopp's Premier League leaders Liverpool.

    Asked if the Reds were a team to be avoided, Zidane smiled and said: "If we play Liverpool, we will eliminate them."

    More soberly, he added: "We can't do anything about the draw."

    Madrid were far from their best in Belgium but Zidane insists he was happy with his side's performance.

    "We are happy with the victory and with the way we played," he said. "We had difficulty with our game since they usually play with five at the back and, today, they played with four.

    "It took 10 or 15 minutes for the players to adjust. The second half was better in every area."

    Luka Jovic was chosen to start in attack alongside Rodrygo and Vinicius, but the Serbian was again unable to make an impression.

    He has still scored just one goal in Madrid colours since his move from Eintracht Frankfurt, and Zidane concedes the striker needs more playing time to find his groove.

    "I don't think he feels lost," the Frenchman said. "He has played little and a player needs to play a lot to be well. 

    "I think he has done well and has to continue working as he does. It's a problem of mine, it's not yours. He needs to continue working and, every time he plays, respond. 

    "It's not easy because he doesn't play much, but knows the situation. He needs to play, it's true."

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