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Sadio Mane 'An Option' for Liverpool vs. Norwich, Says Jurgen Klopp

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2019

Liverpool's Senegalese striker Sadio Mane takes part in a training session at the Melwood Training ground in Liverpool, northwest England on May 28, 2019. (Photo by Anthony Devlin / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP/Getty Images)
ANTHONY DEVLIN/Getty Images

Sadio Mane is in contention for Liverpool's Premier League season-opener against Norwich City at Anfield on Friday, according to manager Jurgen Klopp.

Mane only returned to training at Liverpool's Melwood base on Monday after going all the way to the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal.

Senegal's 1-0 defeat to Algeria in Cairo took place on July 19, after which Mane finally took a break following a lengthy campaign for club and country:

Optus Sport @OptusSport

📅 July 25, 2018: Sadio Mane's season begins 📅 July 20, 2019: Sadio Mane's season ends 📅 August 5, 2019: Sadio Mane's season begins The life of a pro footballer is brutal... 😳 #OptusSport https://t.co/TYsuf4T41g

However, Klopp said the forward already looks sharp and could face the newly promoted Canaries on Friday, per James Carroll on Liverpool's official website:

"Yes. He had only two weeks off, so he didn't lose a lot and that's the good news. He looks fit. Yes, he is an option. Yesterday was the first session with the team because Monday he came in about four o'clock or so when we'd already left and Tuesday the team was off and he had his individual session.

"Yes, he [was] now with the team for the first time and looks absolutely OK, in good spirits and looking forward to it. So, yes, he's an option, but we will see."

Mane, 27, is one of Liverpool's most important players.

He was phenomenal last season, netting 22 goals as Liverpool came second in the Premier League, and he played a key role in the Reds' UEFA Champions League triumph:

B/R Football @brfootball

The best of the #UCL 🌟 https://t.co/xyb4BTV01N

Along with Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, he is part of arguably the best attacking line in the Premier League.

The problem for Liverpool is they have little adequate back-up for their forward trio, especially given they have made no significant attacking signings this summer.

Klopp has a decision to make on whether to rest Mane, confident in the knowledge Liverpool can beat Norwich without him, or play the former Southampton man and risk him picking up an injury because of a lack of fitness.

If he opts to play Mane and he does pick up a knock, it would be a huge blow.

Liverpool earned 97 points last season in the Premier League and lost just one game, yet they still came second to Manchester City:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Liverpool are the first team in top-flight history to lose just one game and not win the title. No other side has won as many as 30 games and reached 97 points and failed to lift the trophy. Watch #MOTD 👉 https://t.co/BZoVsqpaEK https://t.co/vfWgXhIr6d

They will likely need a similar level of consistency in 2019-20 if they are to be in with a chance of breaking their league title duck, which stretches back to 1990.

The visit of Norwich to Anfield is followed by an away trip to Southampton and home clash against Arsenal.

Liverpool need to make a fast start to the campaign if they want to make another tilt at the title, but Klopp may well have to be discerning about how he uses Mane early on.