Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool are waiting to hear if their hopes of regaining the Premier League title will be dented by the African Cup of Nations in early January.
The Reds have been talking with a trio of international authorities hoping they can be persuaded to hold off calling up three Liverpool players to give them a chance to face Chelsea in what could be a crucial title clash at Stamford Bridge on January 2nd. Mo Salah is one of the players who is scheduled to leave for the tournament in Cameroon, which starts on January 9th. As things stand, he will make his last appearance at Anfield on December 26th against Leeds United. This is due to FIFA regulations stating that the countries competing in the tournament can demand the release of their squad members 13 days before things kick off in Africa.
However, Liverpool boss Klopp has asked the Egyptian Football Association if they can hold off that demand so that their striker can feature against Leicester City on December 28th in the Premier League, as well as in the Chelsea fixture. Another of the players who they are hoping to hold onto is Salah’s attacking partner, Sadio Mane. The duo are amongst the deadliest strikers in the Premier League as the Reds’ frontline average a goal every 84 minutes on the pitch. Compared to the Manchester United frontline, which includes Cristiano Ronaldo, that is impressive as they only average a goal around every 200 minutes. So, it’s no surprise to see Liverpool doing everything they can to cling onto their stars for as long as possible. Their manager is keeping his fingers crossed, awaiting news of a decision to delay their flights into Africa, according to an article on Goal.com. “It’s not decided yet. I am an optimistic person, so I hope so, but it’s not written in stone. It is not completely in our hands. Confident is not the right word but I hope so.” Klopp said.
Only two clubs, Watford and Crystal Palace, are likely to be more affected by the African Cup of Nations than Liverpool. A Bwin Sports piece on the subject shows the Reds may not only lose Salah and Mane, but also Naby Keita. However, the majority of Liverpool’s goals come from one of their two African stars, and their absence will hit their title chances. The Reds need to keep their players for as long as possible before they jet off, as they could be away for around a month with their international colleagues even if their departure date is delayed. The tournament in Cameroon doesn’t end until February 9th, and with both Egypt and Senegal amongst the teams who are tipped to compete for the title of African champions this year, it’s entirely plausible that both Salah and Sane could be missing from Klopp’s squad until mid-February.
This would mean that Liverpool would be without their attackers for a 3rd Round F.A. Cup tie as well as Premier League games against Brentford, Crystal Palace, and Leicester City. But if either of them were to sample international success, they could also miss the fixture against Burnley, which comes just 72 hours after the final on the African continent.