Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp’s defiant vow over missing AFCON stars – ‘Who cares?’

Klopp details Gerrard chat after Liverpool beat Aston Villa

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Jurgen Klopp expects the Africa Cup of Nations to go ahead this January and he is relishing the challenge of maintaining Liverpool’s Premier League title bid without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita. The Reds boss has spoken out on the prospect of losing the trio as he prepares to saviour the services for a handful of matches over the festive period before they jet off to join up with their national sides.

Reports emerged on Wednesday morning that the competition could yet be cancelled though due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

African sources strongly deny those rumours and Klopp is also adamant the tournament will go ahead as expected.

But Klopp isn’t phased by the prospect of losing two of his key men and instead believes Liverpool are more than capable of finding other ways to win.

“Yes, we knew [and planned for] the Africa Cup of Nations that’s true, we knew three would be qualified and be there, we knew that at least two of them will go pretty far in the tournament,” he explained ahead of the visit of Newcastle.

“We know how much the three boys have helped us over the past three years, but we always knew they are from Africa and Egypt, so you can not always have the perfect solution, and this is far from perfect.

“But we knew about it and have prepared for it, and we are quite confident we will find solutions. Can we play exactly the same kind of football? Probably not – but who cares?

“We have to play the football we are able to play then. We knew about it and we have to deal with it.”

Klopp remained tight-lipped when quizzed on the prospect of strengthening Liverpool’s squad in the January transfer window.

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The Reds have been linked with the likes of Raphinha and Jarrod Bowen but are expected to stick with their current options while Salah and Mane are away.

Divock Origi has shown he is still capable of stepping up in crucial moments in recent weeks after netting priceless winning goals against Wolves and AC Milan.

His manager is insistent Liverpool won’t ask the likes of Origi to just step in and do the same job as his absent team-mates – instead Liverpool will look to call upon the different skillsets within their current camp.

“Can you be prepared for something like that, properly, perfectly? Like a one for one replacement for Sadio, a (like for like) replacement for Mo, one replacement for Naby?” he asked.

“That’s tricky in each situation, so no. But am I happy with the squad? Yes. And we have options to play and still to play football.

“Look in football you can have a plan and win a football game, no plan and win – so it’s all possible.

“The thing is that whoever plays in the period when the three boys are not here, will have a plan, and that gives us a chance to win a football game.”

Liverpool will be looking to get the best from Salah, Mane and Keita in the next five matches before they go and first up relegation-battling Newcastle, who were beaten 4-0 at Leicester last weekend…

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