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 ‘hopeful’ AFCON trio will be released after Chelsea trip

Liverpool are to be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita early next year due to the Africa Cup of Nations, but the length of their absence has been subject to debate.

With Egypt, Senegal and Guinea all taking part in the competition that runs from January 9 to February 6, 2022, the Reds will be without key options immediately following the festive period.

On Thursday, it was reported that their absence could be for longer than first feared due to a potential departure date of December 27, before Liverpool’s trips to Leicester and Chelsea.

It would then be possible that the Reds would be without the trio for anywhere up to six games and potentially even eight should Klopp guide his team to the League Cup semi-finals.

However, the hope is that a seven-day release will be in place that will see the trio leave Liverpool at the latest possible date on January 3, ensuring they could play at Leicester and Chelsea.

As per The Times‘ Paul Joyce, the schedule for the competition is one “that Klopp will be hopeful of releasing the players after the trip to Stamford Bridge.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 8, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and Sadio Mané after a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Athletic Club de Bilbao at Anfield. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The trip falls on January 2, eight days before Mane and Keita’s opening fixture and nine prior to Salah’s which safely falls into a seven-day release date, but it could need clearance from respective associations.

Hopeful is the keyword in all of this and while it has long been on the radar, it’s another international conundrum at a vital juncture of the season.

But should the trio depart on January 3, they would miss Premier League games against Brentford and Crystal Palace, a potential two FA Cup ties and a possible League Cup semi-final.

And their respective returns will, of course, be dependent on when their team drops out, with the earliest return on January 20 after the group stage, January 27 for the last-16, January 31 for the quarter-finals, February 4 for the semi-finals and February 7 for the final.