Why Sadio Mane deserves to be in the same bracket as Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane

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Liverpool can go back to the top of the Premier League table this weekend.

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum believes team-mate Sadio Mane deserves to be in the same bracket as the Premier League’s top strikers.

The Senegal international scored his 18th and 19th goals of the season in the 3-1 win over Bayern Munich which put the Reds into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

That tally puts him only one behind Mohamed Salah. In terms of Premier League goals the diminutive forward, who plays out wide and not through the middle, has 16 in 29 matches – just two behind leading scorer Sergio Aguero.

Mane has 10 goals in as many games in all competitions – including three doubles – and is enjoying his best goalscoring return in his five seasons in English football.

And that is why he has to be mentioned alongside the City striker and his in-form team-mate Raheem Sterling, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, and Salah.

Mane is as good as Salah, says Wijnaldum.

Mane is as good as Salah, says Wijnaldum.

“He is really good. The games tell you that, he is really important with his goals and assists. A good season, his best with us,” said the Dutch international.

“They (media) do not speak about him? I think the other players have shown they get the headlines but Sadio also.

“He has had a big influence on winning games. Mo did not score (against Bayern) but had a good game.

“People speak about the player who had two goals. A lot of players do the work and make the difference.

“You have to speak about everyone. For me, Sadio is up there with those players you named.”

Wijnaldum is the most senior, established player yet to be rewarded with a new contract after the likes of Salah, Mane, Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson all got new deals in the last 12 months.

However, with the club still fighting on two fronts it is an issue the Dutchman, who still has more than two years remaining, is not concerned about.

Especially as a new contract will, in all probability, will be sorted over the summer ahead of next season.

“No. I did not speak with the club yet,” he said.

“(Is it) a problem between me and the club? I am not a person who has problems. That (contract) is something for the club. I will see what happens.

“I signed a five-year contract (in the summer of 2017) and I am still under contract. I just do my job to perform. A new contract has to come from the club.”

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Pain of losing Champions League final is driving Liverpool on, says James Milner

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Liverpool midfielder James Milner admits the hurt of losing a Champions League final is driving the team as they try to correct that disappointment this season.

However, that does not mean they will be taking their eye off the ball in terms of chasing a first domestic league title in 29 years as the vice-captain feels they believe they can compete on two fronts – even if the critics do not.

The 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev last May was something of a freak result as Jurgen Klopp’s side were the better team until Mohamed Salah was forced off with a shoulder injury suffered during a tangle with Sergio Ramos.

Goalkeeper Loris Karius, suffering from concussion after an earlier blow, had a meltdown for two of the goals, with the other a fantastic overhead kick from Gareth Bale.

It left Liverpool with a feeling of missed opportunity, and a degree of injustice, something Milner wants to put right.

“I don’t think we think about that too much at this moment in time but it is a memory that never goes away too quickly. You still think about it now,” he said.

“Maybe – hopefully – if we get to the final, we can think about putting it right then.

“We probably took more positives from last year than negatives but it’s a bitter pill to swallow when you lose the final of the Champions League and the way we went down.

“I have been to three finals since I have been here (the League Cup and Europa League in 2016), lost them all and I am desperate to put that right.

“You are proud to have played in the European Cup final but you don’t go there to lose.

“Listen, I have loved every minute of my time at Liverpool but to have not won something when we have given ourselves opportunities is difficult to take at this moment.”

Liverpool still have two chances to win a first trophy since the 2012 League Cup and first under Klopp.

The title race is still too close to call and Milner believes progress in Europe will help rather than hinder domestic progress.

“You know, it’s been so long since we won a league title. Even in recent years Liverpool haven’t won as many trophies as they should do for such a big club,” he added.

“Even for us now – we are a young team, we are improving but the chances we have given ourselves? We have to put that right.

“We have to get over the line in one of them.

“But (we can use) the thoughts of the run we had, the teams that we beat and the confidence that we gained.

“Then you see how we are playing in the Premier League – we have only lost one game – that is confidence and helping us move forward as a team.

“We are in two competitions and we can manage that, game-wise. There is the good feeling you get from winning in the style that we did (in Munich), the confidence going into the weekend.

“We got a good feeling from getting out of the group and we have got a good feeling after knocking out Bayern Munich. You can only take positives.”

Liverpool remain a team few will want to be pitted against in Friday’s quarter-final draw because of their recent record in the competition.

Even Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s support for Bayern in the aftermath of his own club’s qualification for the last eight on Tuesday was as much about not having to face their north-west rivals as it was about his former employers.

“Ah, yes. That’s unlucky for him, isn’t it?” said Milner with a wry smile.

“I’d like to think teams have that respect for us.

“We got to the CL final last year. We got to the Europa League final in 2016. We are challenging for the Premier League.

“Whether teams take notice is not really for us to worry about but they take notice after they have played us and we have put them out.”

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp believes best is yet to come from Virgil van Dijk

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Virgil van Dijk has had a huge impact on Liverpool‘s season and manager Jurgen Klopp feels the best is yet to come as the club’s fight on two fronts continues.

Klopp was gushing in his praise of the Netherlands captain after he scored the pivotal second goal in a 3-1 win over Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena to secure a Champions League quarter-final place.

Since the world’s most expensive defender arrived at Anfield in January 2018 he has played a significant part in making the Reds’ defence the toughest in the Premier League.

Van Dijk has made a total of 37 club appearances this season, keeping a remarkable 19 clean sheets in that time.

His statistics are even better when restricted to the Premier League with 17 shut-outs in 30 matches, which has allowed Klopp’s side to take on Manchester City head-to-head as they trail the defending champions by just a point.

Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp

No wonder the manager could not hide his delight at the form of Van Dijk, whose other important contribution is to improve the players around him with Joel Matip – the club’s fourth-choice centre-back – impressing since getting into the side after injuries to Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren.

“What can I say? I could write a book about his skills, about his strength, how much I like him, what a fantastic person he is,” said the Reds boss of his £75 million man.

“So young, already so mature, so strong, all good.

“But Virg knows he can play better and that we can play better than we did (in Munich).

“It’s a difficult place to come. Not a lot of teams have on their cards an away win at Munich. We have that night. Difficult, but cool.”

Another key factor in Liverpool’s continued ability to stay in the race at home and abroad is the form of Sadio Mane.

The Senegal international scored twice at the Allianz, his first a wonderful turn to deceive Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer which team-mate James Milner described as “ridiculous”, to take his tally to 10 in as many matches.

Sadio Mane was the hero of the night.

Sadio Mane was the hero of the night.

His last three scoring games have all been doubles and his timing could not have been more impeccable just as concerns were being expressed about Mohamed Salah’s form of three goals in the last 10 and none in the last six – easily his longest run without scoring for Liverpool.

Mane now has 19 for the season, just one fewer than the Egypt international, having taken on the goalscoring burden in the last three months.

“It’s so obvious that I don’t have to speak about it,” said Klopp of Mane’s recent form.

“He knows it, everybody knows it. I don’t want to speak about it really. It’s so important that these boys stay fit.

“Remind me after the season and I will sing my own song about Sadio Mane if you like. He’s a really good footballer and long may it continue.”

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The only downsides to the night were an injury to Jordan Henderson, who rolled an ankle early on which is likely to rule him out of Sunday’s trip to Fulham, and an unnecessary booking for left-back Andy Robertson which rules him out of the Champions League quarter-final first leg.

“Hendo’s twisted ankle, we have to see. It looks serious enough, and when you have to change in the middle of the park it’s not ideal,” said Klopp.

Copy provided by Press Association Sport

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