Will red-hot Sadio Mane inspire Liverpool to the double?

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The in-form Senegal attacker’s found his top form at just the right time, as the Reds chase silverware domestically and in Europe

The pre-game stats before Liverpool kicked a ball against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena didn’t make for good reading for the Merseysiders; dating back to their Champions League semi-final second-leg 4-2 defeat by Roma, the Reds had lost every game away from Anfield in Europe.

The wretched run included defeat in last year’s final against Real Madrid, while it continued into the current campaign, as they left empty-handed after visits to Napoli, Red Star Belgrade and Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage.

Domestically, Jurgen Klopp’s side hadn’t been pulling up any trees on their travels since the turn of the year either. Their Premier League title chase has been slightly derailed owing to a run of one win in six on their travels in all competitions – an unconvincing 1-0 success at Brighton & Hove Albion the one time they’ve had joy away from home.

While an Anfield stalemate with the Bavarians wasn’t fatal given they kept a clean sheet, a home win might have sat better with the German tactician. It wasn’t going to be easy against a Niko Kovac side that had secured three league wins on the spin since their first-leg draw, scoring 12 goals in the process.

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool Coach

Liverpool needed a solution in Europe, and Sadio Mane stood up to be counted by netting a brace in the eventual 3-1 success, taking his tally to 19 for the campaign in the process.

His pair of goals increased his total in Europe to three for the season and saw him surpass Steven Gerrard and Roberto Firmino to become Liverpool's all-time leading away goal-scorer in their distinguished European Cup history - with seven as opposed to the pair’s six.

Nine of his 13 strikes for the Reds on the continent have come in the knockout stages too, so maybe Wednesday’s showing shouldn’t be that big a surprise.

For Klopp, the Round of 16 success further highlights his extremely good record in European knockout ties, which has now seen the passionate manager win 13 of 16 two-legged knockout ties on the continent.

With the five-time winners being pitted against Porto in Friday’s quarter-final draw, that number could become 14 in 17. 

This isn’t being disrespectful to the 2004 winners in any way, they deserve to be in the last eight, but they'd surely have been keen to have avoided the North-West heavyweights.

However, Liverpool didn't truly demonstrate their best against Bayern, and will be thankful for their West African superstar.

Indeed, Mane’s brilliance carried them into the last eight, but they can’t keep relying on the Senegalese to guide them over the line on both fronts.

The in-form frontman has been Klopp’s best performer since the turn of the year, but can’t be left to bear the burden of a league and European double as single-handedly as he has been doing.

Sadio Mane - Liverpool

The attacker’s recent run of 10 goals in 10 appearances in all competitions has kept the Merseysiders daring to dream, but could an over-reliance on him ultimately see them fall short on both fronts? 

Sadio Mane | 2018-19 Premier League stats

Six of the forward’s goals in the aforementioned run were scored in three of his last four games too, although in the one match in which he didn't net - the Merseyside Derby against Everton - no one else stepped up to the plate and the Reds played out to a scoreless stalemate.

Similarly, recent goalless draws against Manchester United and Bayern came in games Mane fired blanks. 

While the Senegalese attacker was somewhat culpable in the first-leg against Bayern, he more than made up for it with his brace in the reverse meeting. 

It wouldn’t be out of place to think he could play the biggest part of any African left in Europe’s most prestigious competition. 

Riyad Mahrez Manchester City 2018-19

Riyad Mahrez has found favour in recent weeks for Manchester City, but doesn’t seem to be in Pep Guardiola’s best XI if the Citizens have a clean bill of health.

City face Victor Wanyama and Serge Aurier’s Tottenham Hotspur in the last eight, but the Kenyan hasn't been a starter for almost two seasons. Aurier, meanwhile, may not get the nod at right-back given the tournament is now in its crunch stages and he has a tendency for unpredictability. 

Manchester United, who play Barcelona, have Eric Bailly in their squad, but the Ivory Coast defender is behind Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling in the pecking order. While Kevin-Prince Boateng is unlikely to feature for Barca.

Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech has impressed in Ajax Amsterdam’s run in the competition, although they require lightning to strike twice to dump out Juventus after dispatching Real Madrid.

Hakim Ziyech - Ajax

The African contingent at Porto - Vincent Aboubaker, Moussa Marega and Yacine Brahimi - also aren’t expected to progress past the next round. 

That probably leaves Mane as the only player who really stands a chance in terms of both impact and eventual success. The pair of Salah and Naby Keita are going through a funk, so while they may claim success, their impact may be limited. 

With Klopp’s run in knockouts and Mane’s current form, Liverpool certainly stand a chance in Europe. 

Focus switches to Fulham at the weekend as the Reds seek a first win in four league away trips. The Cottagers have switched managers, with Scott Parker recently replacing Claudio Ranieri, but persistent schoolboy errors in defence open the door to Liverpool to build on their midweek success.

While Klopp will be wary of the trip to the West Londoners, he’d hope Wednesday’s away win serves as a springboard for the rest of their campaign. 

Other players have to chip in, but on current form, Mane means business, and will take some stopping in the closing stages of what could be a historic season for Liverpool.

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