One of the subtle but most impactful changes ahead of Saturday’s meeting with West Ham was the early return of Sadio Mané. After having picked up a hamstring injury during last month’s international break, the winger wasn’t scheduled to return until after the upcoming break. That changed this week when he resumed full training and was listed as a starter an hour before kick off.
"I am very happy to be back because it was not easy," Mané told BBC Sport following the match.
"There's no excuse for me now - I was injured but I was always working hard."
Senegal are set to replay one of their qualifying matches after a referee was found guilty of match manipulation that led to their 2-1 defeat at the hands of South Africa. The replay is set to take place on November 10th, in South Africa, with the final qualifier for Senegal’s group happening four days later in the country’s capital.
"It's going to be tough because we know how South Africa is, even when they are not in good form," continued Mané.
"We respect them but we also know we have quality and we have a great team and I think we can do it."
Mané has proven himself instrumental in not only Liverpool’s success, but Senegal’s as well. After missing a vital penalty that kept Senegal from the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, the winger is now desperate to make amends and help the Teranga Lions qualify for the first time since 2002.
"Everybody knows what it means for the country - especially the fans - and I think it will be a dream for us and hopefully God will help us to qualify," the winger said.
While the gnawing fear of another international injury will always be in the back of everyone’s minds, Mané has shrugged off the possibility.
“Every player would love to play until the end of the season without injury. It's part of football so we accept it and move forward,” Mané said
Jürgen Klopp even mentioned the possibility in his post-match presser, and seemed less apathetic.
“"It's the most difficult time for me but I have no problem with international games," he said.
"We are happy for Senegal if they can go to the World Cup, and they need Sadio Mane for this and I understand it.
"He's fit to play - the only thing I would ask for is if they can make it in the first game it would be cool if he could come back and could make the preparations for our game against Southampton. I cannot decide things like this, I don’t even try, but we are in contact.”
Either way, Sadio Mané had made himself an important piece of Liverpool’s puzzle and every minute he’s fit is a strength for both club and country.