EPL

'Liverpool can cope without Salah, Mane and Keita' – Lijnders

By Sports Desk January 02, 2022

Liverpool are not worried about being without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita while they are on Africa Cup of Nations duty, according to assistant Pep Lijnders.

The trio all played in Sunday's thrilling 2-2 Premier League draw with Chelsea in their final outing before linking up with their respective national sides.

Mane and Salah were both on target at Stamford Bridge as Liverpool raced into a two-goal lead, while Keita was introduced in the second half after Chelsea had levelled up through Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic.

Key attacking pair Salah and Mane have played in 26 of Liverpool's 29 matches this term – the joint-most of any Reds players, with Jordan Henderson (25) next on the list.

Between them, they have scored 33 of their side's 77 goals in 2021-22, while chipping in with a combined 10 assists.

Liverpool could now potentially be without both players, as well as midfielder Keita, until the second week of February depending on how far their countries advance at the Africa Cup of Nations.

But Lijnders, who filled in for Jurgen Klopp against Chelsea after the German tested positive for coronavirus, is confident others in the squad can now step up.

"You can try to plan it, but you can never prepare it," he said.

"It is not a worry because we have faith in the boys we have and a few boys are coming back as well.

"We know that certain players can play more offensively as well, they have been playing in midfield, but they can play more offensively as well."

Salah and Mane will link up with Egypt and Senegal respectively, while Keita is part of Guinea's squad for the tournament in Cameroon.

Losing three regulars during a hectic period in the season and with others out through coronavirus and injury is not ideal for Liverpool, but Lijnders has wished the trio well.

"I just told the boys that they should try to win the AFCON because it is a prize to catch and the careers are never long and they deserve to fight for each prize," Lijnders said.

"This prize now comes in front of them – it’s a tournament with so much passion, so much culture and it is a really proud situation if you can play for your country.

"If it's England or Germany or Holland or whoever, that's what they have and feel.

"So they are African legends, they are legends for me, but if they win it they will probably be even bigger legends so they should try with all they have to win it."

Roberto Firmino missed the Chelsea game after contracting COVID-19, while Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi are currently nursing injuries.

Asked when those players are expected to return to training, Lijnders said: "Let's see. 

"Some of the boys plan to be back, but they still didn't start team training, so we have to see."

Lijnders confirmed Klopp will still be absent for the first leg of Liverpool's EFL Cup semi-final tie with Arsenal on Thursday as he continues to self-isolate.

Related items

  • AC Milan face ‘steep climb’ to rescue season – under-fire boss Stefano Pioli AC Milan face ‘steep climb’ to rescue season – under-fire boss Stefano Pioli

    Stefano Pioli knows AC Milan face a “steep climb” to rescue their season as reports the Rossoneri boss could soon be replaced continue to gather steam.

    Milan have won their last five Serie A games and next face relegation-threatened Sassuolo on Sunday but Thursday’s 1-0 home defeat by Italian rivals Roma in the Europa League quarter-finals did nothing to help dispel talk of Pioli’s potentially-imminent departure.

    Reports suggest former Real Madrid and Wolves head coach Julen Lopetegui is being lined up to succeed Pioli, whose contract at San Siro does not expire until June 2025.

    It has been claimed the Parma-born manager has the next three games to save his job: at Sassuolo this weekend, the return leg at Roma and then crucially the derby against Inter Milan on April 22.

    With the Nerazzurri 14 points ahead as the domestic campaign enters its final seven games, losing to Inter could effectively end the title race and leave Milan looking over their shoulder at Juventus – while their European adventure could already be over if they fail to remove Roma’s advantage, earned by Gianluca Mancini’s first-half goal at San Siro.

    Pioli told reporters after the Europa League clash: “The climb is steep because the level has risen, but I’m convinced the team can play at a higher level and if we play at that level, we have every chance of playing.

    “That’s what I told the team after the game.”

    Midfielder Tommaso Pobega and defender Pierre Kalula are unavailable for Sunday’s Mapei Stadium showdown due to injury, with Theo Hernandez and Filippo Terracciano’s involvement in the balance. Tijjani Reijnders is more likely to be involved than English midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

    In the Sassuolo camp, winger Domenico Berardi’s season is already over thanks to an Achilles tear and Norway defender Marcus Holmgren Pedersen is at least a few weeks away in his recovery.

    The Neroverdi are two points from safety after being denied victory by Salernitana at the death last time out, Giulio Maggiore scoring a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw to deny the Emilia-Romagna club their first away win since late November.

    Well-travelled veteran boss Davide Ballardini took over in Sassuolo at the beginning of March and has taken six points from his five games so far.

    The Watermelon Peel can perhaps take heart from one of the shock results of last term when they stunned Milan 5-2 at San Siro, but they have not won the home version of this match-up since March 2016, losing six of the seven subsequent editions.

  • Emma Hayes ‘sick to death’ of exit talk as Chelsea target another FA Cup final Emma Hayes ‘sick to death’ of exit talk as Chelsea target another FA Cup final

    Emma Hayes has insisted Chelsea’s motivation to reach another Women’s FA Cup final is not driven by her imminent exit.

    It was revealed last November that the Blues boss will end her trophy-laden 12 years club at the conclusion of this campaign to take over as United States manager.

    Hayes has entered the home straight of her time at Chelsea and missed out on silverware two weeks ago when Arsenal beat them 1-0 in the Women’s League Cup final.

    The highly decorated Hayes courted controversy afterwards when she appeared to shove Arsenal counterpart Jonas Eidevall, but ahead of Sunday’s trip to Manchester United, the 47-year-old played down the impact of her summer departure.

    She told a press conference: “I’m absolutely committed to doing everything I possibly can to help the team achieve these goals and I’m looking forward to the games.

    “The team want to win for themselves. They want to win for the football club. They want to win for the families. They want to win because they’re winners.

    “They’re sick to death of what they need to do for me and that’s fair, it’s not about me.

    “It’s about them and us as a collective making sure we maximise the situations we are in.

    “There are three pieces of silverware up for grabs and I’m very grateful to be in the position to be competing for them.”

    While Chelsea eye Women’s Super League, FA Cup and Champions League success this season, United’s focus is purely on the domestic cup after an inconsistent campaign.

    Marc Skinner led United to last season’s final where they lost 1-0 to Chelsea at Wembley and he knows the size of the task at Leigh Sports Village.

    “I think their success over the past seasons and beyond is something that everybody wants to replicate,” Skinner acknowledged.

    “It’s a tough, tough ask. Everybody goes, ‘you’ve got to beat Chelsea’… well not many teams do.

    “I think, from our perspective, we have to give everything in this game and I believe on our day and when we have our qualities and we work hard, we can beat anybody.

    “If we do that, then I believe we’ll be in a position to progress into the final of the FA Cup.”

    The winner of Sunday’s other semi-final between Tottenham and Leicester will reach a maiden FA Cup final.

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Adobe Women’s FA Cup (@adobewomensfacup)

    Spurs switched the fixture to their men’s 62,850-seater stadium and boss Robert Vilahamn is desperate to reach Wembley in his first season in charge.

    Vilahamn said: “We started our meeting with the journey we are on and that it ends at Wembley hopefully, but then everything else goes back to normal.

    “I think if we have a good performance we have a good chance to win and go to Wembley.

    “I just hope we can bring so many fans to stadium and make sure we do this together.

    “We play for them, we don’t play for ourselves. We want to make sure we have a lot of fans at the stadium and make them proud.

    “If we’re going to reach the final, we need them because they give us that extra energy.”

    Meanwhile, ninth-placed Leicester will be boosted by the return of goalkeeper Janina Leitzig, who has not played since February due to a shoulder injury.

    The Foxes have endured a difficult season with Willie Kirk suspended in March and subsequently dismissed weeks later, which has resulted in Jennifer Foster stepping up on an interim basis.

    Foster revealed: “Janina is back at 100 per cent.

    “Lize (Kop) has been playing well but it’s good to have both senior goalkeepers back in contention again to push each other.”

  • Xabi Alonso urges Leverkusen to take ‘first chance’ to wrap up Bundesliga title Xabi Alonso urges Leverkusen to take ‘first chance’ to wrap up Bundesliga title

    Xabi Alonso wants Bayer Leverkusen to grasp their “first chance” to claim a maiden Bundesliga title but insisted he is not attaching any extra significance to the visit of Werder Bremen.

    Victory for Leverkusen on Sunday would guarantee the club’s first top-flight title in their 120-year history although they would be crowned champions if Bayern Munich and Stuttgart both lose on Saturday.

    With five rounds of fixtures to go after this weekend, Leverkusen have plenty of opportunities to make club history in a season where they have stitched together a 42-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

    But while Alonso is keeping the same mantra he has had throughout the campaign, the Spaniard would take some comfort in Leverkusen sealing the crown at the first attempt.

    “Obviously there’s this special aspect to the game on Sunday,” Alonso told a press conference.

    “We have the chance to be champions. But we’re only focusing on the game itself and want to play with our usual quality and mentality. We don’t want to think too much about eventualities.

    “We’ll prepare normally for the game. Luckily, it’s not the only chance we have to be champions. But we’re playing at home and want to take our first chance.

    “We’ll approach the game with full respect, because nothing is a given. Our heads are now on Bremen. We’re in a good situation and are focusing fully on Sunday.”

    A 25th victory in 29 league games in this campaign will likely lead to an outpouring of celebration from fans at the BayArena and a possible pitch invasion.

    “The most important thing is that the fans can celebrate properly,” Alonso said when asked about the prospect.

    “They deserve that. But we still have a few games left to play on this pitch. We need the pitch still.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.