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Liverpool face month without Salah, Mane when AFCON returns in 2021

Steve Nicol is shocked by how the current Liverpool side’s attack constantly tries to get behind their opposition.
Steve Nicol says Liverpool’s attack needs to pick up even as the Reds continue to dominate the Premier League.

Liverpool face the prospect of going a month without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane when the Africa Cup Of Nations returns in 2021.

The 2021 African Cup of Nations is moving back to a January-February slot in the congested global football calendar, a switch likely to be unpopular with European clubs.

Other players affected could include Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Naby Keita, Wilfred Ndidi, Riyad Mahrez, Serge Aurier and Wilfried Zaha.

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Cameroon’s Football Association announced on Wednesday they will be hosting the competition in 2021, with proceedings beginning on Jan. 9 and wrapping up on Feb. 6 to avoid the country’s rainy season.

The entirety of the tournament takes place during the Premier League season and will likely be unpopular with clubs, who have long objected to the mandatory release of their players in the middle of the domestic league seasons.

Liverpool would stand to lose star forwards Mane of Senegal and Salah of Egypt, the past two African players of the year.

Hosts Egypt exited in the round of 16, while Senegal finished runners-up to Algeria in the most recent tournament, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was spared the sort of selection headache that he will face next year, because the tournament took place during the summer break.

The influential European Club Association has been part of talks with FIFA to move toward coordinating all continental championships in the European offseason.

FIFA’s revamped Club World Cup competition also kicks off in June 2021, with a 24-team lineup including Liverpool set to play in China.

Moving the 2021 African Cup of Nations clears a competing tournament from the calendar and avoids a clash for African players at top European clubs.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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