There was considerable excitement when Sadio Mane signed for Liverpool in a then-African transfer record deal of £34 million in the summer of 2016 from Southampton, but ahead of a match against his former club, is the Senegal international in danger of losing his way?
After scoring a brilliant brace when the Saints beat the Reds 3-2 in March that year, it was a major boost for Jurgen Klopp's side when the attacker proceeded to replicate this level of performance on a regular basis.
Mane boosted his reputation as he scored 13 goals during the 2016-17 season and made the PFA Team of the Year, although his season was partly cut short by participating in the 2017 African Cup of Nations for Senegal and also missing the last two months of the campaign with a knee injury.
Into the current season, the former RB Salzburg man has not hit the same heights. Bar a three-game suspension and a hamstring injury that saw him miss three league matches, he has featured 18 times in the top flight, scoring just six goals.
Beyond goals, the aforementioned duo have outperformed Mane in other areas.
Salah has attempted 100 shots, 48 on target, with Firmino having 55, 23 on target. Mane meanwhile has recorded 38 shots with 14 on target.
In terms of chances created Salah and Firmino have 41 and 40 respectively, while Mane is with 29.
There isn’t any wide gap between the trio in the terms of assists though, with Salah having six while Firmino and Mane have five apiece. However when it comes to completed passes, Mane is behind again with 575 while Salah and Firmino have 678 and 753 passes respectively.
This is not to say that Mane hasn’t been important for Liverpool, but he is not the centre attraction as he was last season. It is rather Salah – winner of the BBC and CAF African Player of the Year that is making the headlines.
His brace in the 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday further served to ensure that it's Salah, and not Mane, who's the darling of the Anfield faithful.
The latter would usually have been the star of such game, and he actually was in the reverse game at Anfield last February, scoring a brace in a 2-0 victory, but he's been firmly eclipsed this term.
Firmino has also seen a good turn of form lately, the Brazilian have a hand in 10 goals (eight goals and two assists in his last 13 league games.
Perhaps Mane's dip in form is evidence that he hasn't recovered from his hamstring injury completely, even though he's played enough since returning in early November to return to his peak form.
However, during that period, he's been eclipsed by his teammates, scoring three to Salah and Firmino's 16 and eight goals respectively.
10 - Roberto Firmino has been directly involved in 10 goals in his last 12 Premier League appearances against newly promoted teams (eight goals, two assists). Punished. — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 30, 2018
Perhaps the 25-year-old is lacking confidence, and certainly, comparisons with Salah are unlikely to help.
25 - Mohamed Salah has netted 20 goals in just 25 games in the Premier League; the fewest appearances of any Liverpool player to reach 20 goals in the competition. Lightning. pic.twitter.com/zwMvDfhrdA — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 4, 2018
It’s going to be difficult for Mane to catch up with Salah’s blistering form with just 12 games left to wrap up the 2017-18 Premier League season. He can at least take solace in the fact that he’s having a good run of games after steering clear of injury and suspension.
The Senegal forward is still a top class player and still has time on side to return to his top form, even though he is playing something of a peripheral part in the Reds' campaign so far.
Liverpool take on his former employers Southampton this Sunday, and it could be a chance for him to make an impression having not found the back of the net since the Reds' emphatic 4-3 win over current league leaders Manchester City last month.
This season certainly belongs to Salah and, to a lesser extent, Firmino, but Mane can yet make a big contribution as Liverpool look to finish in the top four and go as far as they can in the Champions League.