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Klopp confident Liverpool can delay Salah and Mane AFCON departure

Salah and Mane could miss as many as four Premier League games if they travel to the Africa Cup of Nations when FIFA rules dictate, a situation Liverpool are trying to avoid

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Jurgen Klopp previews Liverpool’s clash with Wolves

Jurgen Klopp has revealed he is hopeful that Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will be available for Liverpool ’s clashes with Leicester City and Chelsea at the end of the hectic festive period.

The Reds duo appeared to be unlikely to feature in either Premier League game as they prepared to link up with Egypt and Senegal for the Africa Cup of Nations, to be held in January.

According to FIFA regulations, Salah and Mane should have flown out for the tournament following the Boxing Day visit of Leeds United to Anfield, which would have been a hammer blow to the Reds.

Klopp’s side currently sit just two points off Premier League leaders Chelsea and will need to keep pace with the Blues as they look to regain the title they lost to Manchester City last season.

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Jurgen Klopp is hopeful Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will miss just two league games when they go to the African Cup of Nations
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YouTube/Liverpool)

Salah and Mane have played key roles in Liverpool’s challenge for the title, scoring 20 of the Reds’ 43 league goals this season.

Their absence will be tough for Klopp to navigate around, with the back-up options in attack far from what will be required to fill the gap left by the duo.

As a result, the Reds boss will want to limit the amount of time they will be away for as much as possible.

To that end, Liverpool have been in negotiations with the football associations of Egypt and Senegal over the possibility of delaying their arrivals.

If they are able to secure a deal, the duo would miss only two Premier League games, which would be a major boost to the Red’s title hopes.

And Klopp is confident that an agreement can be reached for his two star players to stay on Merseyside for the crucial clashes against Chelsea and Leicester.

“It’s not decided yet. I am an optimistic person, so I hope so, but it’s not written in stone and not completely in our hands,” he said.

The Reds are also looking for a similar agreement with Guinea that would see midfielder Naby Keita also make a late arrival to Cameroon.

Mane and Salah are key to Liverpool’s hopes of winning the Premier League title
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Getty Images)

Late arrivals for Salah, Keita and Mane would mean that the only top-flight matches they miss will come at home to Brentford and away at Crystal Palace, both winnable even for a depleted Reds team.

Liverpool’s next league outing will come on Saturday when they travel Wolves, before the final Champions League group game against AC Milan.

Klopp is likely to rotate his side for those matches, with defender Nat Phillips finally set to feature, a player who the Reds boss has hailed.

“People often ask me which player made the biggest improvements under my leadership and I say Robert Lewandowski,” he said.

“That’s probably right, but not far off that is Nat Phillips, just in a completely different department.

“I remember when I saw Nat Phillips first. I spoke to him after the game and he’s one of the smartest players I ever worked with.

“We will see what happens in the window. He was fine doing it because he’s a great guy but his development is absolutely insane. I would sign him for any club except Liverpool because we have him.”

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