LONDON • Sadio Mane has been ruled out for the remainder of the season as he needs surgery on a knee injury.
The 24-year-old Liverpool forward, who has scored 13 Premier League goals this season, suffered meniscus damage in a challenge with Leighton Baines in last week's 3-1 victory over Everton, and has had the knee in a brace all week.
Mane's finishing and pace have been key for Liverpool under manager Jurgen Klopp and the team won just one of seven games in January - their worst run of results all season - when the player was at the African Cup of Nations.
Liverpool's medical staff were hoping they could avoid an operation but the decision has been taken to write off the Senegal forward's campaign and get him fit again for pre-season.
"I am pretty sure Sadio will need surgery but I am not 100 per cent sure when it will happen, but then it is clear 'season over'," said Klopp.
"That is what I half-expected when I saw him after the game. I felt he was lucky that not more happened but we are close enough to the end of the season that it will be pretty much impossible to play again this season.
"He will get a longer break and will be ready for next season. That is the only good news."
There was more bad news for Klopp with Philippe Coutinho emerging as a major doubt for today's league game at Stoke.
The Brazilian was sick at half-time of Wednesday's draw with Bournemouth and has not been to the training ground since.
"Phil is still ill. He was not at Melwood yesterday and he will not be here today," said Klopp.
"He feels much better but we will have to see if we can bring him tomorrow."
The German, however, said he would not dwell on either the injury crisis or how Liverpool's rivals were doing in the race for the top four, and urged his side to focus.
"It's not about thinking about the players you can't (select), it's about thinking of the players you can," the manager said.
Liverpool are third in the table on 60 points, six points above fifth-placed Arsenal and sixth-placed Manchester United, having played two extra games.
"We want to qualify for the Champions League," said Klopp, whose side have dropped 15 points from winning positions this season. "We don't play any of our rivals any more, so we can't influence them. We just have to get as many points as we can. I don't think 60, or 62, or 65 points will be enough to reach the Champions League. We need to collect a few more points."
Liverpool will have Joel Matip available, with the central defender able to appear as a substitute against Bournemouth after recovering from a back injury.
Captain Jordan Henderson's foot problem will be assessed, while forward Adam Lallana is still out after suffering a thigh injury while on duty with England last month.
Stoke will look for home comforts after losing successive away games at Leicester and Burnley.
Although they lost their last game at the Britannia Stadium to leaders Chelsea, Mark Hughes' men have collected 23 points from a possible 45 at home this season compared to just 13 from 48 away.
Defender Marc Muniesa said: "We need to stop that losing run. It's a hard period for us but I think we improved at Burnley."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
STOKE V LIVERPOOL
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