When will Liverpool have Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane available again after the AFCON?
The Reds have a trio of players still away at the African Cup of Nations after they all progressed through the group stages.
Since Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita left for the African Cup of Nations, Liverpool have won all but one of their five games.
But when can we expect to see the trio back on Merseyside to boost the side?
Who has plugged the gap at Liverpool?
Salah and Mane both started and scored in their last game for Liverpool in the 2-2 draw at Chelsea, leaving Jurgen Klopp with two spaces to fill in his front three.
In their place, Diogo Jota scored twice to secure passage to the Carabao Cup final and back-up pair Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino have also been on the scoresheet.
With the Reds enjoying a two-week international break after a hectic festive period, they don’t play again until 6 February, in the FA Cup against Cardiff City, meaning fans will be hoping to see their star players back soon after.
How did Salah, Mane and Keita do in the AFCON group stages?
Salah’s Egypt were handed a relatively tough group with 2013 champions Nigeria, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.
After suffering an opening fixture defeat to the Super Eagles, Salah’s winner against Guinea-Bissau was followed by a draw with Sudan, which meant they progressed to the next round.
Mane and Senegal have enjoyed a better run of form to the knockout rounds as they went unbeaten in their group.
The Liverpool winger netted a 97th minute penalty against Zimbabwe to earn a valuable three points in their opening fixture and that has been their only goal of the tournament.
Two straight 0-0 draws with Naby Keita’s Guinea and then Malawi meant Senegal topped Group B to set up a fixture with Cape Verde.
Finally, Keita also registered a goal in the tournament with a fantastic strike in their defeat to Zimbabwe. Toulouse left-back Issiaga Sylla’s winner against Malawi meant they finished below Senegal by one point.
When are the trio coming back?
Mane’s Senegal are in their own bracket of the tournament whilst Salah and Keita could face each other in the semi-final on 3 February.
Egypt face an Ivory Coast side containing Premier League stars Nicolas Pepe, Wilfried Zaha, Eric Bailly and Maxwel Cornet on Wednesday, 26 January, at 16:00.
Keita’s Guinea will have to overcome Gambia and then Cameroon or Comoros to have the prospect of facing Salah in the semi-final.
Victory would set-up a quarter-final contest with either Morocco or Malawi on 30 January. This means that if Salah’s nation are unable to win both games, he will likely available for the FA CUP game versus Cardiff.
Although in truth he would likely be handed a rest until the Premier League clash with Leicester City on 10 February.
On the same day as Egypt’s game with Ivory Coast, Senegal will be hoping to overcome Capa Verde before facing Mali or Equatorial Guinea.
The final of AFCON takes place on the same day as the Cardiff game, with the third-place play-off also on 6 February.
This means that if either of the three reach the final, they will miss the Cardiff game and face a tight call in featuring against Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City on 10 February.
A way to work out whether the three could feature against the Foxes is using Daniel Amartey as an example. The defender played every minute of Ghana’s three group games as they finished bottom with one draw and two defeats.
Ghana’s last game was on Tuesday 18 January and Amartey played the full 90 minutes of Leicester’s 1-1 home draw with Brighton & Hove Albion on 24 January, meaning he had four non-matchdays to return to Europe, train and prepare for returning to club action.
If either of the trio reaches the semi-final and lose, they could feature at Anfield against the Foxes. However, with the final four days before the game, it is likely that players who reach the final will be unable to fit in the game against Leicester.
Depending on results on either side of the bracket, it is as simple as this:
If any of the three reach the semi-finals, they are likely to be unable to face Cardiff.
If any of them reach the final, they will miss Cardiff game and are likely to miss Leicester too.
If they all don’t reach the semi-finals, they will all be fit to face Cardiff.