Sadio Mane has revealed how the Liverpool squad was once again brought closer by a short trip to Dubai between Premier League fixtures.
Having consolidated their position as the division’s leaders with a 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace at Anfield, an 11-day gap before the visit of Leicester City this week allowed the Reds to head out to warmer climes.
They returned to base at Melwood last Friday to ramp up preparations for tomorrow night’s clash with the Foxes – and did so as an even more tight-knit group, according to Mane.
The No.10 told Liverpoolfc.com: “It was really cool. It was not the best weather ever, but compared to Liverpool it was much, much better!
“Of course we would love to play in the FA Cup but if not, it’s part of football and you have to accept it. The four-day trip was very important for the team.
“Take the example of last year – we had new players like Mo [Salah] and Virgil [van Dijk]. Especially Virgil, he [grew] so close to everybody, it was very important for us and for him as well to be involved more in the team. After Dubai, it looked like he had already been with us here for three or four years.
“This year we had more new players than last year. It’s very important. Here, you don’t have time to go out together. This kind of [trip] helps us to talk about different things, not only football.
“It was very nice. This kind of period always makes everybody closer, making more of an affinity. It’s important for the team.”
The match that preceded Liverpool’s trip wrung out every ounce of the players’ determination and ability to maintain their role as Premier League pace-setters.
They trailed 1-0 to Palace at half-time, saw their own lead cancelled out after a quickfire turnaround, and conceded a third within moments of Mane notching his side’s crucial fourth goal in stoppage-time.
The Senegalese’s conviction that the Reds would secure three points did not falter, however, and he stressed the important influence of the Anfield crowd in achieving that objective.
“The first half was very tough and they were really compact and strong defensively,” he said.
“But when we’re playing at home I’m more relaxed than in an away game because I know that even if it’s not our best game, we’re going to get one or two chances.
“I was sure in my mind that we were going to make it. The fans were behind us and they made a big difference. We were going to make it together.”
As Liverpool continue to thrive on the pitch, off it, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s recovery from a long-term knee injury remains on track.
The popular midfielder – who was pictured doing ball work during the camp in Dubai – has frustratingly had to watch and cheer from the sidelines since last April.
But he and the other players unavailable to Jürgen Klopp at any given time provide added motivation when the team are in action, explained Mane.
“I have been injured [in the past] and I know how hard it is,” added the forward.
“I try to talk to him and check how he is because it’s not easy. Especially for Alex more than me; I was lucky to be out for [only] three months, his is now for a while. It’s very hard.
“His dream is to stay fit and play for the club, win games and win trophies as well. If it’s not the case [that he is playing], it’s difficult.
“Sometimes on the pitch you want to give everything to make [the injured players] proud because it’s not easy for them and their family – injuries are something I never wish on any football player.”