No AFCON trio, no worries for Liverpool as Klopp’s side still have all to play for

Liverpool have all but navigated the Africa Cup of Nations without so much as a hiccup, a prospect that was not so believable for some when the month of January arrived.

Prior to the departure of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita, the trio had accounted for 42.8 percent of Liverpool’s goals this season.

Salah and Mane’s output, in particular, in addition to the dynamism they bring to the wings brought about an understandable level of concern for what would unfold in their absence.

With Divock Origi injured, it was up to the likes of Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Takumi Minamino and Kaide Gordon to step up – although Fabinho also put his hand up!

In total, that quintet – forgetting Fabinho for now – contributed seven goals from the 12 scored in the five games played during AFCON so far, the No. 3 accounted for four.

Liverpool without AFCON trio

Games: 5
Wins: 4
Draws: 1
Defeats: 0
Goals scored: 12
Goals conceded: 2

The Arsenal fixture at Anfield was what many had feared but, all in all, Liverpool picked up a maximum of six points in the league, progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup and secured a place at Wembley for the League Cup final.

All accomplished without Salah, Mane and Keita, a fact that Klopp acknowledged was never going to be easy but the Reds did it all the same.

“The important thing is we did it without them. It made it so intense,” Klopp said of the AFCON absences following the win at Palace.

“When you don’t have that maximum speed on the wing that they have you obviously have to change in these areas. The boys did well to get on the scoresheet.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 23, 2022: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (2nf from L) celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace FC and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With two points pegged back on Man City and only two goals conceded across the five games, Liverpool could not have asked for a better month as at this stage, they still remain in the hunt in all four competitions.

Irrespective of how much hope remains in the title race, it is still very much there and it will be full steam ahead on the AFCON trio’s respective returns from Cameroon.

And they are not to be the only notable returnees, with Harvey Elliott and Thiago also expected to be in the mix from Cardiff’s visit on February 6 onwards.

It’s the best-case scenario Liverpool could have dreamt up after the team left Stamford Bridge at the start of the month amid Covid outbreak concerns and losing three influential figures.

Now to keep pushing on.