Liverpool given Salah, Mane & Keita boost with 2021/22 fixtures

Though Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita are set for the AFCON midway through the 2021/22 season, they could only miss two Premier League games.

The Africa Cup of Nations is scheduled for January 9 to February 6, 2022, following the tournament’s move from last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cameroon are due to host the 33rd edition of the AFCON, though there remain doubts over whether they will be able to, with the group draw currently under indefinite postponement following safety concerns.

Nevertheless, as it stands, Egypt, Senegal and Guinea will be among the 24 nations taking part in the tournament, which means Salah, Mane and Keita are to be involved.

This is undoubtedly a blow to Liverpool, particularly with the loss of Salah and Mane midway through the season and directly after a four-game festive run that sees them play Tottenham, Leeds, Leicester and Chelsea in a row.

But the release of the Premier League fixture list for 2021/22 at least casts a positive light on the situation, chiefly due to the return of the winter break.

Key dates around AFCON

Sadio Mane, Senegal National Team ( Gavin Barker/BackpagePix/Sports Inc/PA Images)

Following the Reds’ New Year’s Day clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the top flight will take a two-week pause as the FA Cup third round will take place on January 8/9.

Liverpool then play Brentford (January 15) and Crystal Palace (January 22), with no fixture scheduled after that until the visit of Leicester (February 9).

With the winter break returning after a one-year absence, this means that Salah, Mane and Keita may only miss the FA Cup third round and the meetings with Brentford and Palace.

ANN ARBOR, USA - Friday, July 27, 2018: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah signs an autograph on an Egypt flag for a supporter after a training session ahead of the preseason International Champions Cup match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at the Michigan Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Even if one or more of the trio reaches the final on February 6, they could potentially return to the bench at least against Leicester – though Jurgen Klopp is likely to manage their fitness around the tournament.

At this stage, no specific dates have been confirmed for the group stage and knockout rounds of the AFCON due the postponement of the draw.

But it is likely that the group stage would end before the winter break begins, which would allow those already knocked out to return, recover and reconvene at Kirkby ahead of the visit of Leicester.

It is far from ideal for Liverpool, but the fixture list is not as harsh as it could have been during a period in which three important players will be missing.

The 2019 AFCON saw Senegal finish runners up, with Egypt and Guinea both knocked out of the last 16.