Mane flying as Liverpool look to go second in Premier League

Liverpool (AFP) – Sadio Mane says his Champions League hat-trick has given him a confidence boost as Liverpool seek to climb to second in the Premier League — at least temporarily — by beating West Ham at Anfield on Saturday.

Mane is just one goal short of matching his total for the whole of the last campaign after scoring three times against Porto in the first leg of Liverpool’s last-16 tie last week.

“It’s always important, especially for a striker, to score,” said Mane. “It gives you confidence and I am feeling confident. Now I am looking forward to continuing to give my best, as I have done all of the time even when I have not been at my best.”

The Senegal forward, 25, will likely line up alongside Roberto Firmino after the Brazilian learned he would face no disciplinary action over an altercation with Everton defender Mason Holgate during an FA Cup third-round tie last month.

Officials announced there was insufficient evidence to uphold an allegation of “discriminatory conduct” during the Merseyside derby clash.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have struck 14 times in their past five matches, making light of the loss of Philippe Coutinho’s in the January transfer window.

Despite his heroics in Portugal, Mane has been the least prolific of Liverpool’s current front three, with 12 goals to his name this season compared with 21 for Firmino and 30 for the outstanding Mohamed Salah.

The good news for Klopp is that his team have discovered a little more defensive solidity recently, boosted by the arrival of Virgil van Dijk, with the clean sheet against Porto coming three days after a 2-0 Premier League win at Southampton.

– Leapfrog United –

Klopp’s side start the weekend sitting third in the table, having lost once in 18 Premier League matches, and victory would carry them above Manchester United, who are not in action until Sunday, when they host Chelsea.

Both Liverpool and West Ham had last weekend off, having been knocked out of the FA Cup, and so should be fresh, with Klopp using the break to take his players to Marbella for a warm-weather training camp.

The only injury absence is defender Nathaniel Clyne, who is recovering from a back problem.

West Ham striker Javier Hernandez believes the 2-0 home defeat of Watford last time out has strengthened the belief among David Moyes’s men that they can get something from the trip to Merseyside.

“We are going to try to do the same or even better as we did in the last game against Watford at home,’ the forward told West Ham’s website.

“These types of games are the ones we all look forward to. We don’t want to be disrespectful to all the other teams, because there are no easy games in the Premier League, whether you are playing against a top side or a team battling relegation, but playing against Liverpool at Anfield is the sort of game all the players want to play in.”

West Ham lie close to mid-table but are only four points above the bottom three.

They are likely to be without centre-back Winston Reid, who has a throat infection, but playmaker Manuel Lanzini should return. Arthur Masuaku remains suspended.

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