The Premier League title race looks set to be another unrelenting one for the teams involved. Following Manchester United’s recent run of results, it looks likely to be a battle between Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea to win the Premier League title this season.
However, the Reds are likely to face a huge challenge over the winter period, as they will be forced to play Premier League fixtures without some of their biggest stars, as they will be playing for their respective countries in the Africa Cup of Nations. But, how could it impact their chances of winning the English top-flight?
Which Stars Will Be Missing For Liverpool?
Liverpool have long been among the favourites for the Premier League title. You can check out the latest odds and visit the site here. However, the main reason that they aren’t the outright favourites in the betting is due to the players that they will be without over the January and February periods. They will be missing players in all positions, but the eyes will immediately be drawn to the omissions of both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
The latter has been revered as one of the best in the world so far this season, with Jurgen Klopp even admitting that the Egyptian is at the top of his game. So far this season, he has scored 15 goals in 14 outings in all competitions. Mane is also among the top scorers in the Premier League this season, having returned to form with six goals in ten league games this season. Taking two of the Reds most integral players out of their forward line is bound to have a negative impact on results.
Meanwhile, the Reds are also likely to be without Naby Keita, who has started the 2021-22 season in the best form of his Liverpool career. However, the Reds do have the quality of Jordan Henderson and Thiago to call on in the middle of the park. However, with such a testing run of fixtures, every player in the squad would have been needed over the winter period in the Premier League.
Which Games Will Liverpool Stars Miss?
Liverpool fans would have already been studying when the AFCON gets underway in early 2022, with the opening game of the competition taking place on January 9th. The final is set for February 6th, which could mean that Mane and Salah could be absent until at least the following week if they reach the final with their respective nations. Both stars are also likely to head to the competition in Cameroon early in the new year, which means that they could be missing from New Year’s Day onwards.
The last game that Liverpool’s African contingent could play may come at the King Power Stadium against Leicester City on December 28th. They will almost certainly miss the Chelsea fixture at Stamford Bridge on January 2nd, and will definitely be absent for a run of games for the Reds in the league against Brentford, Crystal Palace and Leicester City.
It’s unlikely that they would be rushed back into the team for the game against Burnley at Turf Moor on February 12th, as it comes just six days after the AFCON final. The stars will also miss the third round of the FA Cup, and potentially the fourth round at the end of January depending on whether their national sides are still in contention.
Do Liverpool Have The Players To Deal With Key Absences?
Liverpool fans will already be asking themselves whether Jurgen Klopp has the players to contend with key absences over the winter. In truth, many questions have been asked surrounding whether the Reds have quality in reserve, and that is more pressing when it comes to the back-up forward players. There appears to be a big drop off in the players that Liverpool can bring in, which is the opposite from Manchester City. The reigning champions will be without Riyad Mahrez over the same period but will be able to call upon players such as Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish.
Meanwhile, the Reds will likely opt to play Diogo Jota out wide, with Roberto Firmino tasked with playing his preferred false nine position. The question of the other attacker leading the line will be between Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi. The latter may be the preferred option, as he scored for the third time in seven appearances in all competitions in defeat against West Ham United before the international break.
Klopp was keen to keep hold of both Minamino and Origi during the summer transfer window, which means that it’s likely both will have a key role to play over the period of the AFCON. Should the Reds still be in the fight for the title when their stars return, then fans will certainly feel confident that the title could be returning to Anfield.