Jurgen Klopp addresses Mohamed Salah’s looming January departure to the Africa Cup of Nations
Jurgen Klopp has admitted he isn’t sure when Liverpool will lose Mohamed Salah to Africa Cup of Nations duty.
The forward is set to captain Egypt at January’s tournament in Ivory Coast, with the competition getting underway on January 13, and the final taking place on February 11. The Pharaohs are in Group B with Ghana, Cape Verde, and Mozambique, with their opening match taking place against the latter on January 14.
Salah is currently scheduled to miss Liverpool’s trip to AFC Bournemouth as a result on January 21, though could also sit out Premier League clashes with Chelsea, Arsenal, and Burnley depending on Egypt’s progress in the tournament if they reach the knockout stages. Should the Reds reach the League Cup semi-finals and FA Cup fourth round, the forward would likely miss those ties too.
However, Salah could potentially be available for Liverpool’s FA Cup third-round trip to Arsenal on January 7 depending on when he is required to report for international duty.
Klopp admitted it hasn’t yet been decided when Salah will join up with Egypt when asked about the forward’s looming absence, though he revealed he hopes to have welcomed Diogo Jota back from a muscle injury to help compensate for the 31-year-old’s international excursions.
“No, I didn’t think about it, to be honest, and I can’t change it anyway,” he told reporters. “I have no real plans for it. It’s January, right? I hope Diogo is back then.
“I didn’t think about it (January) yet. Probably (he’ll be available for Arsenal in the FA Cup). I’m not sure when the official date is to give the boys.
“December is a tricky month. You’re happy when you get through it and then you start thinking about all the rest. We cannot avoid it anyway.
“Whatever I can say if Egypt and Mo decide he has to go on the second, third, or fourth of January. I’m pretty sure Mo wants to play the game but I’m not sure we can make that decision.”
Even without the services of Salah, Klopp will still be able to call upon Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz, and Jota in January. Meanwhile, the likes of Harvey Elliott, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Ben Doak offer further options in attack.
Klopp is thrilled at the strength in depth he has at his disposal and his players’ attitudes right across his squad, demonstrated by Liverpool’s continued success as he continues to manage his squad heading into a busy festive period.
“It is the quality of the players. When I said a few months ago that it is easy to fall in love with this team, I had the squad in my mind,” he said. “It was the first day and everyone was together.
“Wataru (Endo) and Ryan (Gravenberch) came a bit later, but the rest was together from the start and you recognize this fresh energy and the quality and the talent and the skill and everyone took on the new roles and saw the new opportunity. It was really easy (to fall in love).
“And then if you want to use a squad, a couple of things are important. You have as many top-quality players as possible and then the players are in the right situation in their careers.
“Like coming new into it, happy to play ten minutes, happy to play the second game (in a week) because they are not used to the intensity.
“Sometimes a substitute comes in and wants to prove me wrong. Fine. But long term the next time you won’t be angry with the manager, you will just be angry and then you won’t be any good anymore. So these kinds of things can help.
“In general it is feeling comfortable in your situation and confident as well. That is the group. The boys coming on are influential.”
“On top of that, the five up front – unfortunately only four now with Diogo out – they all know about their quality, there is no one in doubt, so if they don’t start it is not a problem because they know they cannot play all the games.
“If you don’t start, you come on. Fine. They are waiting outside but they always come in (with a good attitude) – ‘When are the others a bit tired and I can come on.’ I realized pretty early that we were lucky with that combination.”
He continued: “This should not be a big story but Divock Origi was the perfect player for us because Divock accepted that he was not a big starter. When he came on his influence was always massive.
“If he had always been angry, he couldn’t have been here as long as he was: ‘I score two goals, but you don’t bring me on in the next game’.
“It was not that I had to explain to Divock, ‘By the way, Bobby starts again next week.’ He was fine with it, but he knew his importance.
“That is the situation. They all know they are all super important and everyone is involved and on top of that, we have these very young kids coming up and having their minutes. And they are happy with whatever you throw in front of them.
“That is a good combination. The first reason (for the changes) is the quality we can bring from the bench but as well the mentality based on the situation within the squad makes the difference. That helps.
“If you searched for it, you couldn’t find a player who is completely unhappy with his situation and thinking, ‘Why am I here?’ They all know that they are super important and have already an opportunity to show that as well.”
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