LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, April 26, 2019: Liverpool's Naby Keita (C) celebrates scoring the first goal, in the first minute, with team-mates Mohamed Salah (L) and Sadio Mane (R) during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Huddersfield Town AFC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool handed boost to title defence with AFCON postponed until 2022

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations has officially been postponed, in what comes as a major boost for Liverpool’s ability to call upon Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.

It is the latest competition to feel the effects of the pandemic, with the January and February 2021 schedule proving unfeasible due to the global climate.

And it has now been moved back 12 months, with the competition set to go ahead in January and February 2022 instead.

While the previous edition of the tournament in Egypt had played out in the summer months, the 2021 AFCON was scheduled to return to its winter post due to the unfavourable weather conditions in host country Cameroon.

It, of course, posed further headaches for teams with representatives across Europe in what is one of the most congested periods of the season, with domestic and European action both on the cards.

And the Reds would have felt its presence in the midst of the 2020/21 season with the absence of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita, should Egypt, Senegal and Guinea have qualified.

YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 24, 2018: Senegal's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring in a 2018 FIFA World Cup Group H match against Japan at Yekaterinburg Arena. Sergei Bobylev/TASS

The feasibility of fulfilling the competition in its designated dates was complicated by four rounds of qualification remaining with international football still up in the air, and countries governed by different waves of the pandemic.

For Liverpool, the postponement comes as a welcome boost for a campaign where Jurgen Klopp‘s side will be out to defend their Premier League title, with a potential six-week absence not having to be considered for the trio.

With the Reds’ transfer activity set to be limited as they navigate the repercussions of the coronavirus, the pressure to identify immediate alternatives for Salah and Mane in attack has been relieved.

And while it’s delay by a year will lead to the absence of their African stars mid-season in 2021/22, the postponement provides ample time to prepare both on and off the field post-pandemic.