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When Salah, Mane & Keita could return from AFCON – earliest and latest dates

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Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita have now left Liverpool for the Africa Cup of Nations, with the trio all due to miss at least four games for their club.

The hours after Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea saw the Reds’ African trio take separate flights to Cameroon, to join training camps with their national teams.

Mane reported to the Senegal squad alongside Edouard Mendy, while Salah flew with Aston Villa forward Trezeguet and Keita made his way to Guinea’s base alone.

They left with the blessing of Jurgen Klopp, his staff and their team-mates, with Pepijn Lijnders telling them to “become even bigger legends” in pursuit of the trophy.

But it remains a big blow to Liverpool, who will be without Salah, Mane and Keita for four games at the least.

So when could they return to Merseyside?

 

Earliest – January 19/20

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

At the very least, all three of Liverpool’s AFCON representatives will take part in three group games, with Mane and Keita pitted against each other in Group B.

Salah’s Egypt will play Nigeria, Sudan and Guinea-Bisseau, while Senegal and Guinea are due to face off against Zimbabwe and Malawi.

There is, of course, a chance that none of Egypt, Senegal or Guinea make it out of their groups – though it is unlikely – and in this event they could be back in Liverpool before the end of the January.

Senegal and Guinea will round off the group stage on January 18, and if either are knocked out they would be able to return on January 19.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s final game of Group D is against Sudan on the evening of January 19, which in theory could see Salah then fly back to England the following day.

That could, in turn, allow them to be involved against Crystal Palace on January 23.

 

Knockout stages

Naby Deco Keita of Guinea during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match between Nigeria and Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria on the 26 June 2019 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

It is likely that all three of Liverpool’s African internationals progress to the knockout stages, however, which would mean they miss the Palace game.

Here are the earliest return dates if Egypt, Senegal or Guinea are knocked out at these stages:

  • Last 16 – January 24-27
  • Quarter-finals – January 30-31
  • Semi-finals – February 3-4

All of these dates land in the Premier League‘s winter break, with Liverpool not back in action until February 10 at home to Leicester.

 

Latest – February 7

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - Tuesday, June 19, 2018: Egypt's Mohamed Salah during the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Group A match between Russia and Egypt at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Once progress from the group stage is secured, there is little difference for Liverpool when it comes to return dates for Salah, Mane and Keita due to the winter break.

An earlier return would be beneficial in terms of training, but with the final to take place on February 6, there would be ample time to report back for the Leicester clash regardless.

However, there is a chance Klopp affords his AFCON internationals more time off to recover following their exploits in Cameroon.

If that is the case, involvement in the trip to Burnley on February 13 may be more realistic.

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