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How Klopp can avoid Africa Cup of Nations flop
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Mitchell Fretton
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah will join Egypt's Africa Cup of Nations challenge
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah will join Egypt's Africa Cup of Nations challenge

Liverpool are in a three-horse race for the Premier League title with Chelsea and Manchester City.

The Reds have only lost one game this season and are the English top-flight's highest scorers.

But the Africa Cup of Nations will see the six-time European champions lose Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita for a critical phase of the season.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is in discussions with the national teams in an effort to delay the departure of his main men.

We discuss the impact that the trio's absence could have on the Reds' title charge and who will have to step up in their place. 

Damage limitation

There are over 30 Premier League players who will be sacrificing a part of their domestic season in an effort to win the continental showpiece.

But the absence of Salah and Mane, in particular, could have a catastrophic effect on Liverpool's Premier League campaign.

The pair have been responsible for 18 of Liverpool's 39 league goals meaning others will have to chip in if the Reds are to make a strong start to 2022.

Luckily, the 2020 champions have world-class talent all over the pitch and the core of their defence and midfield will be unaffected.

Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Diogo Jota will all remain at Anfield as they attempt to pick up as many points as possible in what is destined to be a tough period.

Jurgen's plea

Jurgen Klopp could be without Sadio Mane for the whole of January
Jurgen Klopp could be without Sadio Mane for the whole of January

Former Borussia Dortmund boss Klopp has been in crunch talks with the managers of Senegal, Egypt and Guinea as he looks to delay the departure of the Liverpool trio.

The hope has been that the internationals will be released after the Christmas period instead of on Boxing Day as initially requested.

And the German has spoken about his frustration around the situation.

When asked whether a decision had been made yet, he said: "Not really. It’s too early for that. We are still talking and we are hopeful.

"I’ve heard that so often that there’s no international break until March.

"It’s ironic. There’s still a tournament. A big one. We lose our best players to the Africa Cup of Nations."

Should he be able to successfully delay the absence of Salah, Mane and Keita, Klopp could have them available for their huge clash against Chelsea on January 2.

Who needs to step up?

Diogo Jota celebrates scoring against Southampton
Diogo Jota celebrates scoring against Southampton

Liverpool's attack is set to suffer a massive blow in the new year and Klopp will be looking for his players to step up in the absence of the club's two top scorers.

Jota has been the best of the rest for the Reds this season — the former Wolves man has netted seven times in 12 Premier League games this term.

His involvement will be crucial should Liverpool hope to emerge from the winter period within touching distance of the top two.

The 24-year-old has been firing on all fronts and could look to partner with Roberto Firmino, who is recovering from a hamstring injury.

Divock Origi is also likely to come into the fray in the absence of Salah and Mane — the Belgian only has a consolation strike against West Ham to his name in the league this term but has starred with two goals in the Carabao Cup run.

In midfield, the absence of Keita will be covered by Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara with the Reds boasting more depth in that area than at the top end of the pitch.

Will it be enough?

Mane and Salah's huge influence on the Liverpool team makes it difficult to predict how Klopp's men will perform in their absence.

In addition to critical league encounters, the forwards are likely to miss both legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final, should the Reds see off Leicester in the quarter-final, and are almost certain to be ruled out for the FA Cup third round.

By the time they return, Liverpool could be out of the running for two cup competitions and may have lost ground in the title race.

Jota's form and the return of Origi may paper over the cracks but their influence will struggle to replicate that of Mane and Salah and the Reds are likely to suffer until back at full strength.


Premier LeagueLiverpoolMohamed SalahSadio ManeNaby KeitaEgyptSenegalGuinea
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