Liverpool will miss star forward Sadio Mane's services when he will leave the Reds and join Senegal at the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) starting in January, according to their former striker Neil Mellor. The Anfield club's summer signing has been a key player under Jurgen Klopp, scoring eight goals and registering four assists in the league this season.
The 2017 Afcon will start on 14 January and the final will be played on 5 February in Gabon. If Senegal reaches the final of the tournament, he will miss Liverpool's key fixtures against Manchester United and Chelsea in the league and also the EFL Cup's two legged semi-finals.
Mane scored the winner in Liverpool's 1-0 win over Everton in the Merseyside derby. Mellor has heaped praise on the former Southampton man for his sharpness to score the only goal of the match against his club's local rivals.
"It was a moment to savour [against Everton], and Sadio Mane's goal showed exactly what he's all about," Mellor told the Liverpool Echo.
"In the Premier League, he is one of the most explosive players over five yards. People call him quick but I see him more explosive, with his sharpness something that really makes him stand out.
"No one had a clue where that ball would go but he was on his toes, darted towards it and anticipated the rebound. All credit to him. He made a big-money move over the summer and has found that consistency you would expect from such an expensive signing.
"We will miss Mane when he goes to play in the Africa Cup of Nations next month, of course. There's some big games he'll miss including Manchester United away, Chelsea at home and the League Cup semi-finals."
Liverpool will welcome Philippe Coutinho at the start of the year, while striker Daniel Sturridge is still fighting to remain fit in order to avoid another injury setback. Mellor believes the return of the Brazilian international from his injury and keeping the former Chelsea man will be a boost for the Reds in Mane's absence.
"... don't forget Philippe Coutinho is coming back and Daniel Sturridge will hopefully continue his return to fitness, so that's two big boosts to come for the Reds," he explained.