Under current rules, Jurgen Klopp is facing the prospect of losing three of his stars for potentially eight crucial games in the new year.
Last year, The Reds were seriously affected by injury to key players, with their title defence falling flat by the turn of the year. And this year, they are in danger of missing key players due to the AFCON.
The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is scheduled for January 9 to February 6, 2022, following the tournament’s switch from last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, current FIFA rules state that qualifying countries can ask for their players to be released on December 27 following their Premier League Boxing Day fixtures.
But if the players are allowed to leave around that time, it means that Liverpool will have to play a potential eight fixtures without them. These fixtures include four Premier League games, two FA Cup encounters and two Carabao Cup semi-final legs.
According to The Mirror, Jurgen Klopp is planning to open talks with the national teams to allow his players to report to duty in January instead. The report claims that the Liverpool coach has a good relationship with the country’s FA and will look to strike the agreement during the November international break.
The Reds are scheduled to play Leicester City on December 28, before facing a crucial clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 2 and they will be desperate to hold on to their frontline stars, at least for these two games.
Liverpool will argue that even if the trio leaves after the Chelsea game in New Year, they would still have more than a week to prepare for their nation’s opening fixtures.
Mane’s Senegal and Keita’s Guinea play their opening matches on January 10, while Salah’s Egypt meets Nigeria in their first encounter two days later.
The final will be played on February 6 and if Senegal, Egypt, or Guinea make it all the way, it means that at least one of the Reds’ African delegation may not be available for club fixtures until the Champions League knockout stages get underway in mid-February.
Jurgen Klopp has never been a fan of the tournament, branding it a ‘catastrophe’ in the past.
Speaking about the timing of AFCON in January 2020, Klopp said: ‘I like the competition… [but] the African Cup of Nations going back to January is, for us, a catastrophe.
“On top of that, we have absolutely no power so if we did say, ‘We don’t let him go’, the player is suspended.
“How is that possible that the company who pays the player cannot decide that the player has to stay or not?”
Liverpool are not the only club affected by the AFCOn schedule, with Chelsea, Manchester City and Leicester City also affected.