2021 Africa Cup of Nations is almost here - with Liverpool fans wondering how long Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will be missing from action.
Jurgen Klopp has already incurred the wrath of some fans when he called AFCON a "little" tournament - though the German was speaking ironically, knowing that these two big stars will be a huge miss for the Reds.
FIFA states that clubs have to release players by the Monday morning of the week before the week AFCON starts, meaning that Salah and Mane should be let free to go and compete on January 3.
Liverpool will face Chelsea on January 2, a day before African stars are set to be released by their clubs.
The following week, the Reds will travel to Shrewsbury in the FA Cup on January 8 for a match that both Mane and Salah would have perhaps sat out anyway. It's likely that Klopp will include a number of youngsters in the side - which could work out as an audition for some of them to play in the coming weeks.
Liverpool then host Brentford on January 15. Given the 3-3 rollercoaster of the previous fixture, this one might be a tough game for the Reds but the Anfield crowd should see them through. A week later on January 23, Liverpool travel to Crystal Palace in what might be a tough fixture without the cutting edge of Salah and Mane.
There is a chance, of course, that Liverpool will get their two stars back for the Palace game - Salah and Mane might be eliminated in the group stages. A week after going to Selhurst Park, however, the FA Cup fourth round comes to town - and whether the pair are back from duty or not, their involvement should be expected to be limited.
Overall, it's not a horrendous set of fixtures to be missing your key men from, though Klopp will be nervous of potential banana skins. Thank goodness they don't do World Cups midseason, eh, Jurgen? Wait...
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. He is a keen player of the Football Manager series and creates Twitter accounts for his Fantasy Premier League team every year, before losing interest in his team every September.
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