Liverpool: Are we sure… Salah will outscore Mane?
Liverpool’s Egyptian King broke records for fun last season, but will he be pegged back by a teammate this year?
As Liverpool trudged off the pitch in Kiev, there was one player who could really hold his head high. One who, as the going got tough, toiled and toiled in an ultimately successful bid to turn the game around for the Reds. That player was Sadio Mane.
With Jurgen Klopp’s men losing 3-1, Mane was the sole Liverpool goalscorer in a game where he threatened the Madrid defence repeatedly, hitting the post as well as levelling the score. In the absence of Mohamed Salah, he stepped up.
It was Salah’s absence that many agreed cost Liverpool their chances in the final, regardless of Loris Karius’ well-documented errors. When their 40-goal man was infamously left with a dislocated shoulder by Sergio Ramos in the first half, it ended what was supposed to be the pinnacle of his record-breaking season.
Fresh off a World Cup heartbreak, induced by that shoulder injury, it’s fair to assume that Salah will be hungrier than ever in a bid to right the wrongs of May. Were he to top-score for Liverpool this season, there would not be many people surprise. Most are, in fact, wondering whether he has the capability to top score in Europe.
But could Sadio Mane have something to say about that?
For a man who’s scored 10 league goals in four successive seasons, Mane is often thought of after Salah and Roberto Firmino when people consider Liverpool’s main scoring threats.
Despite enduring a patch of form last season where many questioned if Liverpool actually had his less-talented twin brother playing, Mane still managed 10 goals in 28 league appearances and an even more impressive 10 goals in 11 Champions League games.
At the start of the season, he was a marked man following his exploits in 2016-17. In fact, rival defences tended to sleep on Salah to an extent as they looked to stop Mane and Philippe Coutinho from spearheading Liverpool’s attacking moves.
Upon Salah’s remarkable run of form, injury and poor form prevented the Senegalese winger from racking up the numbers he was looking for.
This season looks like an opportunity to go one step further as a player. Already on three goals, to Salah’s one, Mane has started on fire and is joint top scorer in the Premier League.
Coming in off the left to score twice against West Ham on the opening day, Mane’s pace saw him break free of Crystal Palace in stoppage time to seal a 2-0 win for Liverpool on Monday.
His understanding with left-back Andy Robertson seems to have developed further over the summer, whilst Naby Keita’s inclusion in left-central midfield offers another quality player for Mane to play around.
Despite that, it would take a monumental effort for him to overhaul Salah in the scoring stakes this season.
The Egyptian, who scored after just 19 minutes against West Ham, is firmly Liverpool’s main man. He didn’t score against Palace but won a penalty and assisted Mane, so won’t be short of confidence heading into future fixtures.
KEY STAT: Mane has scored from 3/6 shots in Liverpool’s fixtures so far, Salah scoring with 1/10 efforts.
You can’t blame Liverpool for looking to get Salah into a promising position whenever the opportunity arises. At times last season, Mane looked frustrated that he wasn’t getting the ball where Salah was. But with Salah sticking them away at the rate he was there was little room for complaint.
This season, if the goals dry up just a little bit for Salah, it could be different.
Salah scoring 10 less league goals this season would still leave him on 22 — nine more than Mane has ever managed in a Premier League season.
He’s well on target to break his own personal records this season. But getting past Salah will prove trickier despite a good start for Mane.
Any personal competition between the pair should be good news for Liverpool fans though, with two of Europe’s most potent wingers in their artillery.
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