Mohamed Salah will return to Liverpool earlier than Sadio Mane after AFCON final heartache


Liverpool stars Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane went head-to-head in the Africa Cup of Nations final in Cameroon, with Mane coming out on top after a tense penalty shoot-out

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Klopp says Elliott return is stuff of ‘fairy tales’

Liverpool have been coping reasonably well without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, but manager Jurgen Klopp will still be delighted to welcome the pair back as Liverpool resume their battle for honors on multiple fronts.

The two superstars faced off in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday night, with Mane’s Senegal needing penalties to get the better of Salah’s Egypt in Cameroon.

Mane saw an early penalty saved, but kept his cool to convert the winning kick in the shoot-out, and was rewarded with player of the tournament recognition.

Both players will be assessed by Liverpool when they return to the UK, with a possibility of one or both featuring in Thursday’s Premier League meeting with Leicester City, but Klopp already knows they won’t be back at the same time.

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Sadio Mane was named AFCON player of the tournament
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AFP via Getty Images)

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s weekend FA Cup game against Cardiff City, Klopp acknowledged the winner of the Africa Cup of Nations would likely return to Anfield later than whichever man ended up on the losing side.

There is an expectation that post-victory celebrations will keep Mane out of commission a little longer than Salah, though both should still be in contention for the Leicester game.

The other consideration, though, is that Salah will be returning off the back of four successive 120-minute run-outs after Egypt were taken the distance in all of their knockout games.

“I think they will be available [for Leicester] but we will see,” Klopp said.

“Tuesday or Wednesday latest the winner will be back, the other slightly earlier,” he added, with Senegal’s celebrations beginning on the evening of the game and carrying on well into the night.

“I have to talk to them. They have rhythm as [they have] played quite a few games!”

Salah is expected to return before club teammate Mane
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REUTERS)

Liverpool have remained unbeaten without Salah and Mane, though the forwards have only missed two Premier League games.

Their month-long absence also saw the pair sit out both legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal – a goalless draw at home and a victory at the Emirates Stadium – and FA Cup victories against Shrewsbury Town and Cardiff City.

Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino scored Liverpool’s first two goals against Cardiff, before Harvey Elliott netted on his return from an ankle injury which had kept him out since September.

The game also featured a debut for new signing Luis Diaz, who played more than half an hour after joining from Porto at the end of January, and Klopp will have a healthy squad to choose from.

Midweek opponents Leicester will also be hopeful of calling upon Papy Mendy, who started for Senegal in each of their knockout games, while they have already welcomed back Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi after Nigeria’s early AFCON elimination.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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