Liverpool are going to great lengths to try to ensure Sadio Mané returns from the international break fit and ready to face Southampton, having discussed his potential workload with the Senegal coaching staff and going as far as to send a club medic off with him to monitor his hamstring.
Senegal are set to face South Africa on Friday and then again on Tuesday with their World Cup qualification hopes on the line. They will be favourites to secure a place at next summer’s competition, needing two points to ensure their spot in Russia. That is why Mané himself is desperate to play.
If they win on Friday, though—securing advancement with three points—Senegal have agreed that Mané will be left out of the squad on Tuesday. If they can only draw, though, or even worse, if they lose, then Mané will have to play in both matches. Assuming he’s fit enough to do so.
In this case, though, for the both the player and his nation, “fit enough” will probably mean “able to hobble onto the pitch” given the importance of the next two matches. Or the potential importance, at least. The second one could of course be rendered meaningless in rather short order.
And one imagines every Liverpool fan whose nation isn’t in Senegal’s CAF qualifying group will be rooting for that. For those with allegiances to South Africa, Cape Verde, or Burkina Faso, though, it’s going to be a little more complicated with all three countries still mathematically in the mix.
South Africa, though, are currently Group D trailers and would realistically need to win both games against Senegal to even have a shot at advancing. Cape Verde and Burkina Faso, meanwhile, are two points back of Mané’s group leaders but have played one game more than Senegal.