Jurgen Klopp was a trending topic this week on Twitter after he was accused of disrespecting the Africa Cup of Nations coming up early next year.
In his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League clash against FC Porto last Wednesday, Klopp said there was still a ‘little tournament’ in January when a journalist told him there was no international break till March.
The little tournament Klopp was referring to is the AFCON. And following the game against Porto, a Nigerian journalist put it to the German that he owes Africa an apology for calling the competition little.
Klopp, however, clarified that he did not mean it literally, but in an ironical way. This sparked a debate on Twitter, with many saying Klopp was even highlighting the significance of the tournament.
Klopp’s statement also comes after he said he hates the international break. However, while people can have their differences over Klopp’s statement, the German has a right to express his dissatisfaction with AFCON.
This is because Liverpool will miss three of their key players in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita, when the competition kicks off in Cameroon on January 9.
The Reds could still cope without Keita as the Guinean midfielder has spent most of his time at Anfield on the treatment table rather than on the pitch.
But Salah and Mane’s absence will be a big miss as the two players are not only important, Liverpool will also be losing half of the goals in their team.
This season, Salah and Mane are two of the top three goalscorers in the Premier League. Mane has scored seven league goals, while Salah is the league’s top scorer with 11 goals.
Salah, in particular, will be a massive miss for the six-time European champions. The Egyptian is the best player in the world currently and makes Liverpool tick.
However, while Liverpool will miss both Salah and Mane in January, they will not feel the effect of their absence too much due to the form of another player in the squad, and that’s Diogo Jota.
On Saturday, Liverpool beat Southampton 4-0 in their Premier League encounter at Anfield, with Jota scoring twice. The Portuguese forward delivered an all-round display to help Klopp’s men move just a point within Chelsea.
His first goal came from the boots of Andy Robertson, with Salah setting him up for the second. But his performance was not just about his goals.
He completed all of his dribbles, linked up well with his teammates and was involved in every action. This has been Jota all-season, even in games where one of Mane or Firmino did not play.
The former Wolves star has shown that he has the quality to fill the void of both Salah and Mane. While Liverpool will miss the goals of Salah and Mane, Jota has shown he is capable of minimising the effect of their absence, having scored seven league goals this season.
And given that Mane and Salah will only miss two league games due to their involvement in AFCON, Jota is more than capable of replacing their goals in the two games.
Liverpool’s African stars will be a massive miss for them in January, but they have already found a solution to the problem in Jota.