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Klopp expects Liverpool to maintain title bid without Mohamed Salah

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Jurgen Klopp is adamant Liverpool will be able to maintain their Premier League title charge despite the imminent loss of Mohamed Salah to African Cup of Nations duty.

Salah will leave to play for Egypt at the African Cup of Nations after Liverpool host Newcastle in the Premier League on Monday.

Liverpool sit two points clear of Arsenal at the top as they chase a first title since 2020.

They also take on Arsenal in the FA Cup third round and Fulham in the League Cup semi-finals in January, meaning Salah’s absence could not come at a worse time.

Mohamed Salah is Liverpool’s top scorer with 16 goals this term and his absence in the Ivory Coast, for potentially over a month if Egypt go deep into the tournament, leaves Klopp with a major void to fill.

“It is not the first time, it is a really at least very average situation that you lose your goalscorer but we had it even worse in the past when Sadio (Mane) and Mo left,” Klopp told reporters on Friday.

“We came somehow through it and traditionally one of them went pretty far in the tournament, which made it worse.”

Jurgen Klopp will also be without Japan midfielder Wataru Endo while he plays at the Asia Cup at the same time as Salah departs.

“We knew the Africa Cup of Nations from time to time appears and Mo has to go and we have Endo as a participant of the Asia Cup as well, so it is like it is. We have to deal with it and we will,” Klopp said.

“Each long-term plan I could have had depends massively on who is available. We would have solutions today, I hope we have that after the Newcastle game as well.”

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The return of Diogo Jota after a month out injured is a boost as the Portugal international scored a comeback goal against Burnley on Boxing Day.

Jota’s versatility means he can operate across the forward line, as can Cody Gakpo, while Harvey Elliott has played in Mohamed Salah’s position even though he is more of a midfielder in Klopp’s system.

“The return of each of the boys is super-important but Diogo especially. Everybody was quite positive about our five options, but I don’t think we had it that often to be honest,” Klopp said.

“Especially with the amount of games we play it is so important these boys can rotate and now with Mo leaving and Endo leaving we need everyone to get back.”

However, Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson’s recovery from a dislocated shoulder is now likely to keep him out now for the whole of January.

The Scotland captain, sidelined since October, was expected to return next month.

“Robbo still needs more range in his shoulder. Obviously it was a big surgery, still not even close to team training or whatever,” Klopp said.

READ: Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s ton lifts Afghanistan to thump UAE in first T20I

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