Sadio Mane would "understand" if the 2019-20 season was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, even though Liverpool are just two wins away from claiming the title.

The Reds have been champions-in-waiting for some time, having taken 79 points from 29 games to open up a 25-point lead over Manchester City.

Yet the Premier League, like the vast majority of competitions across the world, has been halted due to restrictions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

It remains to be seen when, or even if, the Premier League will return as the hiatus has extended past the beginning of May already.

However, Mane insists there are bigger concerns given over 83,000 people have died after contracting coronavirus worldwide.

Asked if he felt like a champion already, Mane told talkSPORT: "I think not yet. I love my job and I love football, I want to win on the pitch.

"I want to win the games and I want to get the trophy, it's what I would love.

"But with this situation, whatever happens I will understand.

"It has been difficult for Liverpool, but it has been more difficult for many millions of people around the world. Some people have lost family members and that is the more complicated situation.

"But for myself, it's my dream and I want to win it this year.

"If that's not the case, I will accept. It's part of life. Hopefully we will win it next year."

Some - such as Manchester United's Luke Shaw - have suggested the Premier League should be voided if the season cannot resume.

However, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said earlier this week he sees "no way" in which Liverpool could be denied the title.

The Reds have not won a top-flight championship since 1989-90, prior to the inception of the Premier League.

Liverpool star Sadio Mane revealed Jurgen Klopp said he was "like a rapper" as he turned down the chance to sign the attacker while at Borussia Dortmund.

Klopp opted against signing Mane during his time at Dortmund, where he was coach from 2008 to 2015, a decision he later said was a mistake.

Mane felt the Liverpool manager had made an error, joking about how Klopp had perceived him at the time.

"He said I was like a rapper!" Mane told The Guardian.

"But I think I gave my best so what can I say? That's part of life – you never know how you are going to get along with people. But I think he was wrong for sure.

"It was an experience for me as well though. I knew I had to show him more until we met again."

Together at Liverpool, Mane has developed into one of the world's best attackers under Klopp.

Mane praised the German for his belief in his players, highlighting Liverpool's incredible comeback win over Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

"What makes him special is that he never stops believing," Mane said.

"In the meeting before the game he was really convinced that we could do it, even though we were missing two of the best players in the world [Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino].

"He pushed the boys hard to give everything possible and tried to take the pressure off us."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin sees "no way" in which Liverpool could be denied the Premier League title this season despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool were 25 points clear atop the table when the campaign was suspended due to coronavirus last month.

It remains unclear when, and if, the season will resume, but Ceferin said Jurgen Klopp's men were almost certain to be champions, giving the club their first top-flight title since 1990.

"I see no way to keep Liverpool untitled," he told Slovenian sports daily Ekipa.

"If it is played, then they will almost certainly win it – theoretically they have not reached the guaranteed level, but it is practically close.

"However, if it could not be played, it would also be necessary to announce the results in some way … and then the champions should be determined. And of course again I don't see a scenario that would not be Liverpool.

"I understand that fans will be disappointed if it happens in an empty stadium or even at a green table, but I believe they will win the title in one way or another."

However, Ceferin insisted the plan was still for leagues around the world to be completed.

"I just spoke hypothetically," he said. "We are also preparing for such scenarios, but we are not dealing with the details for now.

"At this point, we are fully committed to completing the competition."

Philippe Coutinho's transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona was "difficult" but "fair" for the player, says Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.

Brazil midfielder Coutinho swapped Anfield for Camp Nou in January 2018 in a deal reportedly worth over £100million after protracted negotiations.

Klopp explained how Liverpool had initially held firm against a sale due to an injury to Adam Lallana, but relented at a time when the move made sense for all parties.

"I really respected Phil's switch from the first second," he told the Pure Football Podcast.

"Not that I do that all the time but it felt 'oh wow that could be difficult'.

"So it's not about yes we signed a new contract so many weeks before that but it was really clear he would not have asked me for any other club but for this club, there was no chance.

"Then we had to be hard in the summer because we had no other solution. We lost Adam Lallana in that time as well, we would have lost two players.

"That's not possible, you cannot solve that on the transfer market.

"He was open to that [staying] and that was really cool. Then you have to be fair in the window and say we can do it, we don't like it but we can do it."

Coutinho struggled to adjust at Barca and was shipped out on loan to Bayern Munich for the 2019-2020 season, which is suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bayern are not thought to be keen on making the move permanent, but Barca appear certain to sanction a sale elsewhere if they can recoup a large sum of the outlay they stumped up to Liverpool.

The Reds had been linked with a move themselves, although reports say they will not be in the market for their former midfielder, and Klopp wants the best for Coutinho wherever he ends up.

"Phil was our boy for a long time," he added. "We respect him a lot and wish him all the best.

"That's how football should be. That's the most important thing the club showed in that moment."

Liverpool have made a U-turn on their decision to furlough a number of non-playing staff impacted by the Premier League's suspension following a backlash, CEO Peter Moore has confirmed.

The Reds announced of Friday they were following the likes of Tottenham and Newcastle United in taking advantage of the United Kingdom government's job retention scheme, meaning 80 per cent of some staff wages would be paid by the state.

But that move was widely slammed given the club had less than six weeks previously announced £42million pre-tax profits, with former Liverpool players Jamie Carragher, Danny Murphy and Dietmar Hamann among those to publicly lambast the decision.

Following the criticism, Liverpool have opted to seek alternative arrangements.

Virgil van Dijk wants to be remembered as a "Liverpool legend" when his playing days are over.

The Dutch centre-back has been a revelation since joining the club in January 2018, playing a major role in transforming Liverpool from top-four hopefuls to Champions League winners and Premier League leaders.

Before the coronavirus pandemic caused the indefinite suspension of top-level football, Liverpool were 25 points clear at the top of the English top-tier, potentially two wins from their first title in the Premier League era.

Van Dijk is widely considered a major reason for their successes, narrowly missing out on last year's Ballon d'Or to Lionel Messi.

The Netherlands international, 28, feels a connection with the club and is hopeful he will be seen as one of Liverpool's greatest players when he hangs up his boots.

When asked how he wants to be remembered when his career ends, he told Sport: "As a Liverpool legend. I want to achieve incredible things here.

"We have a fantastic team, we don't lack anything, we have all the tools necessary to on winning: a coach that we identify with, a versatile squad, a style of play that breeds victories, a stadium and supporters that play their part.

"Yes, I would like to be one of those players that return to Anfield after retiring. I see club legends at games and I feel part of a really big family."

Although a first league title in 30 years appears certain when the COVID-19 hiatus ends, Liverpool will not be retaining their European crown as they were eliminated by Atletico Madrid in the club's final game before the suspension.

Supporters' group Spirit of Shankly has called on Liverpool to explain the decision to furlough a number of staff amid the coronavirus crisis.

Members of the workforce that are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can claim 80 per cent of their wages – up to £2,500 a month – from the United Kingdom government under the scheme.

While the Premier League leaders will top up any shortfall in earnings, the move has been heavily criticised, including by ex-players Jamie Carragher and Dietmar Hamann.

Liverpool announced a pre-tax profit of £42million in February, with the annual accounts showing a record £223m was spent on the addition of new players in 2018-19.

In an open letter to CEO Peter Moore, Spirit of Shankly has raised concerns over the damage caused by the choice to furlough employees while the season remains on hold due to coronavirus.

"We understand this is essentially an employee/employer issue, but as LFC's recognised official supporter representatives, we are concerned about the damage this is causing to our club's reputation and values," the letter - signed by chair Joe Blott - read.

The fan group has also asked for clarity on a variety of details, among them the number of non-playing employees involved, while adding they "look forward to a speedy and comprehensive response".

Carragher declared the "respect and goodwill" earned following efforts made by manager Jurgen Klopp and captain Jordan Henderson - who is reportedly spearheading an attempt from Premier League players to raise funds for the National Health Service - earlier during the pandemic had now been lost.

Former team-mate Hamann, meanwhile, was "astonished" by the move, writing it was "contrary to the morals and values of the club I got to know" on Twitter.

Liverpool sit 25 points clear at the top of the table, leaving them on the cusp of being crowned champions for the first time in the Premier League era.

Manchester City became the first Premier League club to confirm that their non-playing staff will not be furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic after leaders Liverpool were heavily criticised for their handling of the crisis.

A number of Liverpool's non-playing staff were suspended on furlough, it was announced on Saturday, leaving them free to claim 80 per cent of their wages from the United Kingdom government while the club tops up any shortfall in their pay.

Tottenham, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Bournemouth took similar action by utilising the government's furlough scheme, prompting widespread criticism of wealthy clubs opting to put further strain on public funds.

Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy was among those to slam the quintet, describing their actions as "grotesque".

City took a divergent move on Sunday, with a club spokesperson saying in a statement: "We can confirm, following a decision by the chairman and board last week, that Manchester City will not be utilising the UK Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (government funded furloughing).

"We remain determined to protect our people, their jobs and our business, whilst at the same time doing what we can to support our wider community at this most challenging time for everybody."

City are second in the Premier League table, 25 points behind Liverpool, and the league announced on Friday that play will not resume in early May as had been planned.

Premier League clubs met on Friday to discuss the prospects for completing the season, and the possibility of players taking a 30 per cent wage reduction was also discussed.

Former midfielder Danny Murphy labelled Liverpool's decision to furlough some of their staff as "grotesque".

The Premier League leaders announced on Saturday they had placed some staff on furlough due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the season being suspended.

Murphy, who made more than 200 appearances for Liverpool, slammed the decision, with Tottenham among the other clubs to have done likewise.

"It is grotesque because it wasn't introduced for Premier League clubs who have more than enough money to look after their own," the former England international wrote in the Daily Mail.

"I'm particularly disappointed with the decision coming from Liverpool yesterday [Saturday] because it runs against the togetherness and unity the club has always been renowned for, particularly over the last 30 years since Hillsborough.

"I think there will be a backlash and while the club's business people might think it will save them some money in the short-term, it will cause reputational damage."

It came as the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) claimed "essential public services" would lose important revenue if players took a 30 per cent pay cut proposed by Premier League clubs.

With Premier League players to donate to the National Health Service (NHS), Murphy believes they have been put in a tough position.

"The furlough controversy put those players in a predicament. I'm sure the players would have wanted to come together and find the money to enable other club employees to continue receiving their full pay packets. The furlough clubs put them on the back foot and even the health secretary jumped in," he wrote.

"The Premier League has now "advised" players to take a 30 per cent pay cut, apparently agreed by the clubs. I don't think the players would object to the principle but they deserve to know first what their money would be used for instead.

"We are talking significant amounts, millions of pounds. If it went to the frontline NHS or charities, that's one thing. If it remained in the clubs' pockets, that is another."

Dietmar Hamann is the latest former Liverpool player to criticise the club's decision to place staff impacted by the Premier League's suspension on furlough, stating they are going against their values by doing so.

With the coronavirus pandemic causing a prolonged hiatus for football, Liverpool announced their intention to furlough non-playing staff on Saturday.

Members of the workforce that are affected can claim 80 per cent of their wages – up to £2,500 a month – from the United Kingdom government, though Liverpool will top up any shortfall in their pay.

Liverpool became the fifth Premier League club to announce the measures, with all of them attracting criticism as detractors feel profit-making businesses owned by wealthy individuals or groups should not be receiving assistance from the British taxpayer to cover wage costs.

Hamann's former Liverpool team-mate Jamie Carragher slammed the club, claiming the move will have lost them "respect and goodwill", and now the German has hit out.

"Astonished by the news that @LFC takes advantage of the furlough scheme to claim 80 per cent of non-playing staff wages back off the government," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

"That's not what the scheme was designed for. Contrary to the morals and values of the club I got to know."

Liverpool had previously received praise for Jurgen Klopp's displays of compassion at the start of the pandemic, while Jordan Henderson is reportedly spearheading an attempt from Premier League players to raise funds for the National Health Service.

But Saturday's news has attracted widespread scorn, with it coming less than six weeks after the club announced pre-tax profits of £42million for the year ending May 2019.

Jamie Carragher has blasted Liverpool for their decision to place staff impacted by the Premier League suspension on furlough, suggesting the move loses the club "respect and goodwill".

Members of the workforce that are affected can claim 80 per cent of their wages – up to £2,500 a month – from the United Kingdom government, though Liverpool will top up any shortfall in their pay.

The Reds announced these measures on Saturday, with Tottenham, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Bournemouth all previously taking advantage of the government scheme.

Other clubs have been criticised for furloughing non-playing staff, with detractors suggesting clubs owned by wealthy individuals or companies should not be getting assistance from the British taxpayer to cover wage costs.

In Carragher's opinion, Liverpool's decision has seen them lose much of the respect Jurgen Klopp and players had earned the club for their behaviour and attitudes earlier in the crisis, with Jordan Henderson reportedly spearheading an attempt from Premier League players to raise funds for the National Health Service.

Writing on his official Twitter account, Carragher said: "Jurgen Klopp showed compassion for all at the start of this pandemic, senior players heavily involved in Premier League players taking wage cuts.

"Then all that respect and goodwill is lost, poor this @LFC."

The Premier League announced on Friday it will not resume action in early May as had previously been planned.

Liverpool has placed a number of staff impacted by the Premier League suspension on furlough, the club announced on Saturday.

Members of the workforce that are affected can claim 80 per cent of their wages – up to £2,500 a month – from the United Kingdom government, though Liverpool will top up any shortfall in their pay.

Tottenham, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Bournemouth have all taken advantage of the furlough scheme due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Premier League announced on Friday it will not resume in early May as had previously been planned.

A statement from the league leaders read: "Liverpool FC has placed some staff who are impacted by the Premier League suspension on furlough.

"The club has confirmed those staff will be paid 100 per cent of their salaries to ensure no member of staff is financially disadvantaged. Last month the club also confirmed that it would pay its matchday and non-matchday staff while the Premier League is suspended.

"Even prior to the decision on staff furloughing, there was a collective commitment at senior levels of the club – on and off the pitch – with everyone working towards a solution that secures jobs for employees of the club during this unprecedented crisis.

"There is ongoing active engagement about the topic of salary deductions during the period matches are not being played to schedule. These discussions are complex and as a result the process is ongoing."

There has been public pressure on Premier League footballers to commit to pay cuts, with clubs agreeing in a meeting on Friday they would discuss 30 per cent wage reductions with players.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is reportedly spearheading an attempt from Premier League stars to raise funds for the National Health Service.

The Reds highlighted some of the charitable work already done by their players during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Liverpool FC has also been actively working with its players, Liverpool FC Foundation and the club's community outreach programme, Red Neighbours, to ensure its community response is targeted to help local families in food crises and those that are socially isolated," said the statement.

"A significant donation has been made to St Andrew's foodbank in north Liverpool by the first-team players and Liverpool FC Foundation, an emergency foodbank appeal was launched by Liverpool FC Foundation to help those in need and LFC staff are continuing to volunteer to help ensure families have food throughout the crisis and beyond."

As the world continues to battle against the coronavirus pandemic, football fans across the globe face another weekend scratching around for something to fill the void.

The domestic calendar in England has been halted in a bid to reduce social gatherings and the Premier League has confirmed its fixtures will not resume at the start of May.

While we cannot say for sure how this weekend's Premier League fixtures would have gone, our friends at Opta have come up with a system to predict the outcomes.

What chance would your team have had? Take a look below.

Predictor explainer:

The Opta Predictor estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) given each team's attacking and defensive quality. The team's attacking and defensive qualities are based on four years of historic results, with more weighting given to their most recent results. The model will take into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes against and reward them accordingly.

ASTON VILLA v WOLVES

Home win: 27 per cent
Draw: 28 per cent
Away win: 45 per cent

Struggling Aston Villa were rated as unlikely to get a key victory in their battle against relegation in their scheduled fixture at home to Wolves. A home win is the least likely of the three results, with Villa having lost five straight matches across all competitions. Top-four chasing Wolves have only won five of 14 top-flight away games this season, but are backed to pick up a sixth here.

BOURNEMOUTH v NEWCASTLE UNITED

Home win: 39 per cent
Draw: 29 per cent
Away win: 32 per cent

The predictor percentages for this match are all in a very close range across the three results, indicating how hard it would have been to call. Home advantage sees Bournemouth, who sit in the bottom three, rated as narrow favourites, as they were bidding to end a four-match winless run against a Newcastle side sitting five places and eight points above them.

ARSENAL v NORWICH CITY

Home win: 67 per cent
Draw: 21 per cent
Away win: 12 per cent

The predictor rated Arsenal versus Norwich City as the most one-sided match of the week, with the Gunners given a massive 67% chance of victory. No other team got over the 50% mark. Three straight wins boosted Mikel Arteta's men prior to the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Meanwhile, bottom-of-the-table Norwich only have one win in 15 away attempts in this season's Premier League.

BRIGHTON v MANCHESTER UNITED

Home win: 25 per cent win
Draw: 29 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Of the 10 away teams in action, Manchester United were rated as the second-most likely to earn victory in their contest at Brighton and Hove Albion. Prior to the halt in football, United had closed within three points of Chelsea in the race for fourth place, while struggling Brighton are still yet to win a match in 2020.

CRYSTAL PALACE v BURNLEY

Home win: 41 per cent
Draw: 30 per cent
Away win: 29 per cent

No game in this match week was rated as more likely to end in a draw than the mid-table battle between Crystal Palace and Burnley at Selhurst Park. Sitting 10th and 11th, Palace and Burnley are level on points and also have the same goal difference, with Sean Dyche's side only ahead in the table due to goals scored. It is Roy Hodgson's hosts who would have gone into the clash with a narrow advantage in win probability.

WATFORD v SOUTHAMPTON

Home win: 39 per cent
Draw: 29 per cent
Away win: 32 per cent

Another tight match would have seen Watford host Southampton as Nigel Pearson's side continue their battle against relegation. Playing at home and with a win over Liverpool in their last contest at Vicarage Road, they would have gone in as very slight favourites, but Saints sit seven points better off and this is another that goes down as too close to call. 

SHEFFIELD UNITED v TOTTENHAM

Home win: 32 per cent
Draw: 30 per cent
Away win: 38 per cent

A game between two teams chasing a European place, Sheffield United and Tottenham, was the one the predictor had significant trouble calling a winner for. At 30%, it is tied with the Palace v Burnley contest as the most likely draw of the weekend. Interestingly, Spurs – who have not won for six games - do go in with a better chance of victory despite the contest being held at Bramall Lane and Sheffield United, by contrast, being on a six-match unbeaten run.

WEST HAM v CHELSEA

Home win: 25 per cent
Draw: 27 per cent
Away win: 48 per cent

Of the 10 away teams, Chelsea are given the best chance of victory in their match on the road against West Ham. Frank Lampard's men thumped Everton 4-0 before the break in action and are given a 48% chance of following that up with a win over their London rivals West Ham, who are on a poor run of one win in 10 games.

MANCHESTER CITY v LIVERPOOL

Home win: 46 per cent
Draw: 27 per cent
Away win: 27 per cent

Unquestionably the biggest match of this week was due to be second-placed Manchester City's clash with runaway league leaders Liverpool. After an almost perfect season, Jurgen Klopp's men had finally started to show some vulnerability prior to the suspension of action. They had lost three of their last four games in all competitions and the predictor believes they were most likely to go down to another defeat here, although surely it would not have been enough to derail their title bid.

EVERTON v LEICESTER CITY

Home win: 36 per cent
Draw: 29 per cent
Away win: 35 per cent

The closest match of the week is the game that was going to be the Monday night contest between Everton and Leicester City. The predictor can hardly split the two teams, with Everton given a 36% chance of winning, compared to 35% for the Foxes. Of the teams who are favourites, Carlo Ancelotti's men have the lowest percentage. They would have come into the game having collected only one point from three games, but those were against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. Leicester are third but without a win in three top-flight away fixtures.

It was a night to forget for Manchester City at Anfield, where Liverpool ran riot in the Champions League.

The Orlando Magic also came crashing back to earth after their home winning streak was ended by the Boston Celtics.

Sebastian Vettel topped the podium in Malaysia, and he had a team-mate alongside him back in 2010.

We take a look back at April 4 in sporting history.

 

2018 - Liverpool paint Merseyside red

City were greeted to a hostile reception on Merseyside and it was a sign of things to come in the opening leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

Liverpool fans attacked and damaged the City team coach on its way into the stadium, prompting an "unreserved" apology from manager Jurgen Klopp.

On the field, Liverpool blitzed Pep Guardiola's City 3-0 – scoring three goals in the first 31 minutes to take control of the blockbuster tie.

Goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane heaped misery on City, who were brushed aside 5-1 on aggregate as the Reds went on to reach the final.

 

1996 - Celtics burst Magic's bubble

Up until this day, the Magic had gone 51 consecutive games without defeat at home to Eastern Conference opponents.

It was an NBA-record run dating back to April 1994.

However, Orlando's streak was halted by Boston following a 100-98 defeat.

 

 

2010 - Vettel leads Red Bull in Malaysia

It was the Red Bull show as Vettel crossed the finish line ahead of team-mate Mark Webber to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Reliability issues had cost German star Vettel potential Formula One victories in Bahrain and Australia.

But Vettel overtook pole-setter Webber at the start and held on to secure a one-two for Red Bull, with Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg third.

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