Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed that he has no plans to replace superstar wingers Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah when the pair jet off to the African Cup of Nations next month.
Despite uncertainty over whether the tournament will even take place amid a spike in Covid-19 cases, AFCON organisers are confident they can still proceed and are finalising plans to hold the competition, which will run from January 9 to February 6.
Should any of Liverpool’s representatives, which also includes midfielder Naby Keita, make it far in the competition, they would definitely miss two Premier League games and are expected to miss more once training camp and quarantine rules are considered.
Extended absences of either Mane or Salah would be an obvious dilemma for Klopp, and the Liverpool boss warned fans that it will be tricky to replace the pair.
“We knew three would be qualified and be there and we knew that at least two of them will go pretty far in the tournament,” Klopp confessed (via the Daily Mail).
“Can you be prepared for something like that, properly, perfectly? Like a one-for-one replacement for Sadio, a replacement for Mo, one replacement for Naby?
“That’s tricky in each situation but I am happy with the squad and we have options to play and still to play football. The thing is there are so many games coming up when we are still together – that is the most intense period now – but then we have a lot of games when Mo and Naby and Sadio are not here.
“That means we have to find line-ups for these games, even when we have cup competitions we have to find line-ups for these games as well, and that is the situation so you can never be perfectly prepared for this. We are quite confident we will find solutions.”
Klopp did admit that he knows Liverpool will be weaker without Salah and Mane, adding that the sides scheduled to face them in that period will be excited to be facing the Reds without their stars.
“Whoever will play in the period when the three boys are not here, will have a plan, and gives us a chance to win a football game,” he added.
“Can we play exactly the same kind of football? Probably not – but who cares? Then we play the football we are able to play then.
“You cannot always have the perfect solution. In this case we are far away from being the perfect solution without these players but we knew it and we now we have to deal with it.”