Mane returned from an injury just in time to face Bafana Bafana in back-to-back 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers during the international week, starting with the replay at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Friday.
In his first match back from injury, Mane showed just why he is rated highly by Reds coach Jurgen Klopp, setting up two of Mohammed Salah’s goals in a convincing 4-1 victory away from home for Liverpool in the English Premier League.
Mane sustained a hamstring injury in early October and Senegal feared that he would miss the qualifiers against Bafana, but Lions of Teranga coach Aliou Cisse named him in the squad, saying he is confident the player would be it to play in both matches.
Initially Mane had been ruled out for six weeks after picking up a knock in the World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde, but he returned two weeks ahead of schedule and Bafana defenders will have to keep a close eye on him when they face off on Friday.
He’s got speed, pace, vision and skill that can open up any defence, which should be a concern for Baxter.
For Liverpool’s first goal, Mane ran almost the entire pitch on a counter attack before setting up Salah to calmly finish past goalkeeper Joe Hart at London Stadium. For the second, he spotted an unmarked Salah and picked him out with a good pass as the Egyptian put the matter beyond doubt with a left-footed finish.
This just means Baxter will have to work on a good plan to either stop the supply to Mane or to make sure the player does not get enough time on the ball to turn or shoot in the box.
In Bafana’s 3-1 victory over Burkina Faso last month, the central defensive partnership of Morgan Gould and Clayton Daniels worked well and Baxter could be tempted to stick with the pair, considering how well they know each other from playing regularly together at SuperSport United.
This means captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, who returns after missing the Burkinabe clash, could be played at right-back.
No matter who starts the match Bafana need to be on top of their game to stop one of Africa’s finest talents.