Last week, Mamadou Sakho was a Liverpool hero.
He followed up his goal in the dramatic 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund with another header against Everton in the Merseyside derby.
Then, when he crunched James McCarthy in the final few minutes when his side were already 4-0 up, chants of ‘Sakho, Sakho, Sakho’ could be heard echoing around Anfield. He was a real crowd favourite.
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Little did they know that it would be the last match Sakho will play this season after the French defender accepted that he had failed a drugs test. It’s reported that Sakho was found guilty of taking a taking a fat-reducing substance and he has decided not to request his ‘B’ sample to be checked.
It means that the former Paris Saint-Germain star faces a ban of anything up to two years. The timing couldn’t be any worse for the Reds as Jurgen Klopp’s side travel to Spain to play the first-leg of their Europa League semi-final against Villarreal.
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But for Sakho, not only will he miss the remainder of the campaign for Liverpool, he will also be absent during Euro 2016 held in his native country.
It’s fair to say the reaction on Twitter was mixed with some Liverpool fans wanting the defender’s contract terminated while others are fully supporting him.
But there were also plenty of fans that are fully behind him.
While it's clear Sakho won't be playing for Liverpool again this season, it’s unclear whether we will see the commanding defender feature for the club again.
If he cooperates, Sakho’s ban could be the same to that of teammates’ Kolo Toure’s who was banned for six months for taking a similar substance.
However, the fact is, he could be banned for 24 months which would throw his Liverpool future into jeopardy.
Either way, Klopp has a big decision to make immediately. Sakho and Dejan Lovren had formed a decent partnership but the German manager will have to find a new centre-back to play alongside the Croatian.
Toure was given the nod against Newcastle at the weekend but Martin Skrtel and Lucas Leiva could also be called upon for the club’s biggest match of the season so far.
Their job will be to keep Cedric Bakambu quiet. The Villarreal striker has scored 22 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions this campaign - including nine in 11 Europa League matches - and will be the main threat for the Yellow Submarine.
But Sakho isn’t the only influential player Klopp won’t be able to call upon against the Spanish club. Divock Origi, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson are all likely to miss the rest of the campaign but the manager has called for his squad to react.
“We cannot change it,” he said, per The Guardian.
“Momentum is not about having the best squad ready to play. Momentum is to be ready to fight.
"We need to be prepared. It isn’t about always having the best players but being perfectly prepared for our next game. Then, we can go on,” he added.
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