Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has backed “very, very important” Takumi Minamino to play an influential role for the club while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are away at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Afcon 2021 belatedly kicked off this month in Cameroon, with Salah and Mane linking up with Egypt and Senegal respectively, hoping to reach the final of the competition which takes place in early February at the Olembe Stadium.
Both nations are tipped to reach the latter stages of the competition, and if either succeed in going the distance, Liverpool could be without two of their star men for as many as six games, including the already-contested FA Cup win over Shrewsbury.
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In total they could miss both legs of the League Cup semi-final against Arsenal, two Premier League ties against Brentford and Crystal Palace, as well as an FA Cup fourth round match-up against Championship side Cardiff City.
Despite this, Klopp believes his side are in capable hands with those on the fringes at Anfield, backing Minamino, who has started just four Premier League games since he joined Liverpool in January 2020, to remedy the void left by Salah and Mane this month.
“Taki was injured. Nothing serious but serious enough that he couldn’t play,” Klopp said after the 4-1 Shrewsbury win of Minamino’s condition.
“It’s not the longest rehab in his life hopefully – or maybe it was the longest rehab hopefully.
“But he is back and very important for us, very, very important – especially when we have a lot of games coming up and we know that two of our main guys up front are not here.
“It’s good. I liked Taki a lot when he came on (as a substitute). He’s actually in a really good shape but, of course, the injury interrupted it slightly.
“But now he’s back, it’s good and we need him desperately.”