Liverpool’s Klopp hopes for Egypt early exit; but Salah quick return from Africa Cup unlikely

Liverpool’s Klopp hopes for Egypt early exit; but Salah quick return from Africa Cup unlikely

By Associated Press

LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp has wished Mohamed Salah good luck — sort of — for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

Liverpool’s top scorer this season could be absent for more than a month depending on how Egypt performs in the Ivory Coast.

If Egypt reaches the final — like it did in 2022 — it would mean Salah missing at least seven Liverpool games, potentially eight if the Merseyside club gets past Arsenal on Sunday in the third round of the FA Cup.

Defensive midfielder Wataru Endo will also be out of the lineup for the Premier League leader while on international duty for Japan at the Asian Cup.

“I said ‘If I wish you good luck it would be a lie,’” the Liverpool manager joked Friday. “No, I do, obviously. From a personal point of view, I would be overly happy if they go out of the group stage. But it’s probably not possible, so it’s fine and then they can go and win it as well. Good luck, see you, and come back healthy — that’s pretty much the words.”

Liverpool managed just fine without Salah last time, recording five wins and one draw while he was away. Salah helped Egypt advance to the final, where they lost to Senegal and then-Liverpool teammate Sadio Mané.

Salah has scored 18 goals across all competitions this season. He’s the Premier League co-leader — alongside Manchester City’s Erling Haaland — with 14 goals. Salah also has eight league assists, tied for the most with Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins.

The Egyptian netted twice in Liverpool’s 4-2 win over Newcastle before heading off for international duty.

“Do you want to play without Mo? No. In the past, we didn’t have to do it too often but we always found I think a way to get through this period,” Klopp said.

Versatile forward Diogo Jota would appear to be the likely replacement on the right side for Salah. Harvey Elliott is another option.

Egypt is in a group with Ghana, Cape Verde and Mozambique. Egypt’s final group game is Jan. 22.

The tournament final is Feb. 11 in Abidjan.