Liverpool's forward options during Salah and Mane's AFCON absence

Pressure will be on Jota and Firmino to step up while Origi and Minamino must continue to deliver when called upon… Liverpool still have plenty of forward options after Klopp admitted he WON’T buy in January while Salah and Mane are at AFCON

  • Liverpool could be without Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah due to AFCON
  • Jurgen Klopp has no plans to find transfer window solutions for absent forwards
  • The German insisted he is ‘happy with the squad’ and still has plenty of options
  • The Reds boss will have to rely on the likes of Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino

Liverpool’s attack is in astounding form at present but the Reds could be facing the January Blues. 

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have been principal contributors to Liverpool’s goalscoring exploits but the Reds’ title race hopes could take a hit with the duo set to leave for the African Cup of Nations in January – if it goes ahead.

The Egyptian is the Premier League’s top goalscorer with a haul of 14 in 16 top-flight appearances this season, while Mane has chipped in with seven to help Liverpool to a healthy goal difference of 33.

Liverpool could be without Sadio Mane (left) and Mohamed Salah (right) due to AFCON

But Reds boss Jurgen Klopp revealed on Wednesday he has no intention of bringing in attacking cover in the January transfer window. 

Liverpool are not short of attacking options but in the absence of talismans Salah and Mane the pressure will increase on those left behind at Anfield to maintain the influx of goals.

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the attacking option Klopp could rely on when Salah and Mane head to Cameroon. 

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp (left) will have to turn to other attacking options in the duo’s absence

Diogo Jota impressed on his debut season at Anfield but the Portugal international has notched it up another level this term. 

The 25-year-old has scored nine goals in 19 appearances across all competitions, making him the third highest goalscorer in the top flight, and has chipped in with two assists. 

His goal contribution is not the only thing that makes the former Wolves forward such an attacking asset, but also his versatility.

Diogo Jota (right) scores in Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Southampton to give the Reds a 2-0 lead

Jota is able to play across the front three but this season he has made his mark in the central-forward role and has been key to Liverpool’s clinical touch in front of goal. 

His predatory instincts are pivotal as his team-mates up front use their pace and trickery to pull apart defenders. 

Klopp will hope that Jota can continue his form alongside the players that step in for Salah and Mane, as well as substitute the goals. 

The Portugal international has scored nine goals in 19 appearances across all competitions

ROBERTO FIRMINO

There have not been as many kung-fu kicks from Roberto Firmino this season, partly due to the Brazilian’s spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. 

But Firmino has returned to first-team training and is reportedly in contention to make his return to the pitch this month to give Klopp a timely boost ahead of the Reds’ AFCON absentees. 

The 30-year-old has fired six shots into the back of the net in 11 appearances this season, including a hat-trick in a 5-0 rout over Watford.  

Despite going through quiet periods in front of goal at times, the false nine’s return from injury will no doubt see him start in the Reds’ formidable starting line-up alongside Jota.

Roberto Firmino is expected to be back in action by January following a hamstring injury 

The Brazilian scored Liverpool’s fifth goal in win over Watford and completed his hat-trick

DIVOCK ORIGI

In typical Divock Origi fashion, the Belgian has delivered when needed for Liverpool this season. 

The centre forward turned on a sixpence to strike home in the 94th minute and snatch all three points for the Reds against Wolves earlier this month. 

The Belgium international also clinched the winner for Liverpool in their final Champions League group game against AC Milan.

Divock Origi (centre) clinched a 1-0 victory for the Reds over Wolves with a 94th-minute goal

After scoring only once last season – in the League Cup against Lincoln City – Origi seemed destined for a summer move.

But he still has one foot in the door at Anfield as he looks to write an extra chapter into his Liverpool story this season – and his greatest chance could come in January.

Origi has scored five goals in 10 appearances this season and could be called on to replicate that form by Klopp. 

But the pressure will be on him to deliver on a consistent basis next month as Liverpool face potentially eight games without Salah and Mane.  

The Belgian has the chance for another chapter at Anfield after being mooted for a move

TAKUMI MINAMINO

The Japan international has played just 40 minutes of Premier League football this season but following the Reds boss’s praise on his versatility last month Minamino could get the nod in January. 

Minamino suffered a snub last week as Klopp started Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of the 26-year-old against Aston Villa and he will be gearing up to stake his claim for a starting spot to prove himself to the manager. 

Takumi Minamino has scored four goals in all competitions this season but, while he made a top-flight goalscoring cameo against Arsenal, three of his strikes have come in the EFL Cup, very much cementing his status as a fringe player. 

But with thinner attacking depth on the horizon Minamino will need to burst from the fringes into the spotlight to carry the Reds through a jam-packed schedule. 

Takumi Minamino celebrates his first league goal of the season during a 4-0 win over Arsenal

ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN 

Klopp made a surprising choice to play Oxlade-Chamberlain up front in the narrow 1-0 victory over Aston Villa. 

But the decision gave insight into how the Reds boss intends to cope without Salah and Mane.

With Jota, Firmino and Origi all sidelined for Steven Gerrard’s return to Anfield, Klopp resorted to a different strategy, switching the England international from his usual midfield role to lead the line in the manager’s latest false-nine experiment. 

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain switched midfield for the frontline in narrow 1-0 win over Aston Villa

The 28-year-old linked up well with his team-mates when dropping deeper but his play left Liverpool lacking bodies in the box. 

Deploying Oxlade-Chamberlain in a similar role in January could leave the Reds with finishing issues and the risk of a goal drought. 

But Oxlade-Chamberlain has been known to make the scoresheet for Liverpool with a worldie or two, most notably his 2018 wonder strike against Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final, and utilised correctly could help keep the Reds’ tally up. 

WHICH GAMES COULD SALAH AND MANE MISS FOR LIVERPOOL?

Dec 28: Leicester City (A) – Premier League

Jan 2: Chelsea (A) – Premier League

Jan 9: FA Cup third round (TBC)

Jan 15: Brentford (H) – Premier League

Jan 22: Crystal Palace (A) – Premier League

Jan 29: FA Cup fourth round

Feb 9: Leicester City (H) – Premier League

Feb 12: Burnley (A) – Premier League

*Actual number of games is dependent on how far Egypt and Senegal go in AFCON 




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