EXCLUSIVE: Liverpool's Sadio Mane: We can beat any team in the league
LIVERPOOL, England -- Liverpool winger Sadio Mane sat down with ESPN FC's Mark Ogden for an exclusive interview. Mane spoke about his recent red card against Manchester City, the Reds' start to the season and Philippe Coutinho's stay at Anfield this summer, as well as Senegal's hopes at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Q: How frustrating has Liverpool's start to the season been, especially since the 4-0 win against Arsenal?
A: Sometimes it can happen in football, but the most important thing is the reaction and it is important to do that. We have a great team and great qualities in the team, and I think we will do it [respond.]
Q: The Liverpool attacking strikeforce -- is it one of the best in the Premier League?
A: Thank you for the compliment! That is what we are looking for and what we are working for every day in training. We are going to keep going to do that to try to help us win games.
Q: Is it the pace of you and Mohamed Salah which really frightens teams?
A: Maybe, but it is the whole performance of the team which is the key.
Q: How important to you was it that Philippe Coutinho stayed at the club [after he handed in a transfer request in a bid to join Barcelona]?
A: It was not only important to me, but also to the whole club, that Phil is staying here. He is one of our best players, an important player, and we are happy to see him stay with us.
Q: Do you believe you can still win the Premier League title?
A: Honestly, it is too early to talk about the title. We are not focused on other teams, just on ourselves, and we know we can beat any team in the league.
These kind of results [no win in four games since the Arsenal victory] can happen in any team, but we will do our best to change the situation. We will try to take it game by game, and why not win it at the end?
Q: Your first game back after suspension will be against Spartak Moscow -- are you excited to be in the Champions League?
A: It is very exciting to be playing in the Champions League because it is the dream of every player in the world. It's a big competition in Europe and we have played one game already against Sevilla and did not get the result we wanted [a 2-2 draw].
Now we have to go to Spartak, but why not go there and win? I know they are a good team. They would not be in the Champions League if they weren't.
Q: Do you have any concerns over racism in Russia? We have seen the likes of Yaya Toure targeted by Russian fans in recent years in the Champions League?
A: I think that FIFA knows more than anyone, so to be honest, I am not thinking about it. I think it is the past. I will only focus on my football and try to do the best for my team, win the game over there, then come back home.
Q: You must be happy about FIFA's decision to replay the South Africa vs. Senegal 2018 World Cup qualifier because of match-fixing in the first game?
A: Honestly, I am happy because it was not an easy game for us and it was not an easy situation. Everybody who watched the game knows that it was not a normal thing to deal with.
The two goals were very, well ... you couldn't understand them, so it is good for us that FIFA has made the decision and we will take this game seriously and try to win.
Q: Did you know at the time that something was not right when the referee awarded South Africa a penalty?
A: It was a very strange decision, but we are football players so we accepted it because we couldn't change anything.
This gives us a second chance, but it doesn't mean that we have won the game already. South Africa is a very good team and we respect them a lot. We will try to do our best and win the game.
Q: How do you feel about Burkina Faso, who are top of your qualifying group, appealing against FIFA's decision earlier this week?
A: I didn't know that, but I think FIFA has done it already, so that's it.
Q: It's been a long wait for Senegal to get back to the World Cup after 2002 ...
A: It has been a very long wait, but we are hoping to go back at the end of this season. We are going to do our best. We are on a good way, so we are trying to change it [failure to qualify since 2002.]
Q: El-Hadji Diouf, who also played for Liverpool, was one of your heroes, but is it time for a new generation of stars to emulate him in Senegal?
A: He was one of the best players in the whole history of Senegal. He did a lot for the national team and everybody knows and respects him for that. But we have a new generation and we try to copy them and why not do more?
I think everything is possible. It will not be easy to do as they have done, but we are going to try and do everything to be successful.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_