SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - Monday, January 2, 2017: Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring the second goal against Sunderland during the FA Premier League match at the Stadium of Light. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SADIO Mane believes Liverpool will cope fine in his absence as he gets set to jet off to the African Cup of Nations.

The Senegalese forward is the Reds’ current top scorer with nine goals — all scored in the league — but will now be away on international duty for at most the next month or so.

However, Mane has backed Jürgen Klopp’s side to sustain their title challenge and bounce back from their draw at Sunderland.

He told LFCTV: “It won’t be easy for me to leave because I would like to help them until the end of the season.

“But I wish them good luck. We have a strong team and I think it won’t be a problem. They will do it.

“I think we are in a good position. The draw is OK, but now the most important thing is the reaction. Everybody knows that and we are ready for the next game.”

Mane scored and later gave away a penalty as the Reds twice gave up a lead in the North East, leaving title rivals Chelsea with the opportunity to establish an eight-point lead at the top against Spurs on Wednesday.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - Monday, January 2, 2017: Liverpool's Sadio Mane [hidden] handles the ball after a free-kick from Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson, the referee Anthony Taylor awards a penalty, during the FA Premier League match at the Stadium of Light. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And the £30million summer signing from Southampton admitted that the referee made the right call to award Sunderland their second penalty of the afternoon.

He said: “The guy pushed me a little bit and I lost my control and touched the ball with my hand. It was a penalty.

“We are leaving disappointed because it’s not what we expected. We were winning and we played well and created many chances.

“But after all, you have to score and we didn’t score, so it was a little bit of a problem. One point — we have to accept it and prepare for the next game.”

Klopp was less content with the refereeing decisions during the course of the 2-2 draw, insisting that conceding two penalties was hard to take.

In the aftermath of the game, he said: “We scored the second goal, felt good, felt deserved, then I would say no foul, but a free-kick. I have seen it again and there was no contact. Then handball, 2-2, that’s how it is.

“I must be honest, it doesn’t feel good and it’s not because of the point, it’s because two penalties in a game… Usually what you have to do to get a penalty, to get two, that was harsh, very hard to accept. But obviously I have to accept it, so I will do it.”

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Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo

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