Sadio Mane is confident Liverpool can cope without him during his absence at the Africa Cup of Nations, amid reports Jurgen Klopp wants to sign a replacement for the forward in the January transfer window. The 24-year-old will represent Senegal in the 16-team tournament in Gabon, one of the favourites to win the competition for the first time, which runs from 14 January to 5 February.
Mane could miss as many as eight matches during this period, including the third and fourth round of the FA Cup, both legs of the English Football League Cup semi-final against former club Southampton and the Premier League games against Manchester United, Swansea City, Chelsea and Hull City. The winger has started 16 of the Reds' 17 top flight fixtures this term, scoring eight times.
The Merseyside derby win over Everton marked Mane's most significant contribution in a Liverpool shirt, as he struck a 94th minute winner to put the club second and within six points of leaders Chelsea. But amid news that Philippe Coutinho has returned to training ahead of the upcoming festive period, Mane is confident his side can cope without him at the start of the new year
"It will not be easy for me to go with Senegal next month," Mané said, according to The Guardian. "I would love to carry on playing with my team-mates and help my team but I think they will understand because it is my country and it is my dream.
"I will be wishing them good luck but without me the team will be the same, even better. They will cope. Coutinho will come back. [Joël] Matip will come back and [Daniel] Sturridge is back now. I am very happy for him. It has not been easy for him being out. He has had a lot of injuries but you know he can deliver important performances. That is why the team will be strong.
"We [Liverpool] are not thinking about Chelsea. We are focusing on our team and it was important to get the three points at Everton. We take each game at a time. It is still early to talk about what is going to happen but one of our ambitions is to go far as possible and we are going to try to do that."
With Danny Ings out for the season with a second knee injury, the Liverpool Echo had reported that Klopp was looking to sign Spartak Moscow's £25m-rated wideman Quincy Promes to bolster his forward line. The Russian club claim they are yet to receive an approach for the 24-year-old, who joined the team from FC Twente in 2014.
Meanwhile, Liverpool will have Mane available for the busy festive schedule, which sees them play three times in the space of just over 168 hours. Stoke City and Manchester City travel to Anfield on 27 December and then New Year's Eve, before Sunderland host Jurgen Klopp's men on 2 January in their opening fixture of 2017.