Look away, Liverpool fans! The proof that Reds will struggle without Mane

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The Senegal winger is to serve a three-match ban for his red card against Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp's men will miss his pace and penetration

After Liverpool's Champions League opener against Sevilla at Anfield on Wednesday night, former defender Jamie Carragher made a surprise appearance on Norwegian television alongside current winger Sadio Mane.

"We speak a lot about Philippe Coutinho coming back," the Scouser told Viasport, "but, at the moment, I think this man here is the most important player for Liverpool."

Few would disagree. While it was Coutinho that Barcelona tried to sign during the summer for €130 million (including add-ons), it is Mane who is now the Reds' most valuable player.

Reds 13/5 to draw/lose to Burnley

The Senegalese had already racked up 13 goals before his first Premier League campaign was cruelly cut short by a knee injury but he hit the ground running this season, striking three times in his first three appearances.

However, Mane's unintentional but reckless foul on Ederson in last weekend's meeting with Manchester City resulted in a red card that means an automatic three-match suspension.

His absence was immediately felt at the Etihad, with Liverpool going from having the better of a game in which they were 1-0 down to slumping to a 5-0 drubbing.

City Liverpool Mane red

The fear now among the Anfield faithful is that the Reds will also suffer in the upcoming clashes with Burnley, Leicester City and Newcastle United and the statistics do not bode well.

While Liverpool managed to claim fourth spot last season in spite of the fact that Mane missed two significant chunks of the season due to the Africa Cup of Nations and that aforementioned ligament damage, the statistics underline that the Reds are not the same side without him.

Indeed, this is best demonstrated by Opta's Expected Goals (xG) model, which measures how likely a particular shot is to be scored based on distance to the goal, angle to the goal, assist type, whether or not it was headed and a variety of other factors. This assigns an xG value between 0 and 1 that reflects how likely the shot is to be scored. So, for example, 0.3 xG means a shot will typically be scored 30 per cent of the time.

Liverpool's average xG per game for with Mane is 1.77 but it drops dramatically to 1.45 when he's not in the team.

During the 11 games last season in which Liverpool were forced to make do without the former Southampton man, they actually conceded, on average, fewer goals (1.0 to 1.3).

Sadio Mane Liverpool xG PS

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However, this is misleading in that a seemingly tighter defensive does not mean more points. On the contrary, Liverpool averaged 2.1 points in the 31 games they played with Mane, compared to just 1.6 when he was unavailable.

The fact that Liverpool also averaged fewer shots (16.2 to 18.1) and less possession (59% to 66%) per game with Mane also underlines that the Merseysiders are a far more clinical, efficient successful side with their No.19 on the field.

All of the above simply shows that while Liverpool are capable of winning without Mane, his finishing and creativity are going to be sorely missed for the next three games.

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