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Liverpool's Klopp rips AFCON move
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Liverpool’s Klopp rips AFCON move, says FIFA needs to step in but won’t

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Jurgen Klopp is furious about Cameroon moving the Africa Cup of Nations to January 2021, something that would hinder the Reds’ likely title defense.

(No, Klopp is not counting his title chickens before they hatch, even if it’s a foregone conclusion).

Cameroon moved the tournament from summer to winter due to its climate, which seems like a decision that could’ve been made ages ago. The nation had hosting rights stripped away for the 2019 tournament, but will host in 2021.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Reds could be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita for the better part of a month should Senegal, Guinea, and Egypt all qualify for the tournament. Joel Matip could be there with hosts Cameroon if the federation is successful in convincing him to return to the international fold.

Klopp went on a lengthy and mostly understandable diatribe against the move. We write mostly because there’s something lost in translation regarding the import of the tournament.

He’s upset at how it will tax his squad and how he keeps the players happy if he needs to add players just to deal with one month of the schedule.

“Do we really want to open this book? I couldn’t respect Africa Cup of Nations more than I do, I like it, I’ve watched it a lot. Difficult circumstances a lot of times,” Klopp said, via The Liverpool Echo. “It is another tournament, there are too many of them. Other thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby, Mo or Sadio because of it but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision. Normal process. We have to think about that. Players aren’t asked. … FIFA, who should [step in] doesn’t look like being involved. It’s a strange situation. If we want lesser games they will say take less money. I will say, I am ready to do so. Yes.”

He continued.

“For us it’s a catastrophe, If we say (a player) can’t go, he’s suspended. How can the club who pay his salary not decide. If he’s injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa so they can have a look. We don’t have any say. We just plan the route. These are all things that should not be like this. I speak about it now and no one will listen. The moaner from Liverpool again. It’s a complete waste of time. As long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”

Manchester City (Riyad Mahrez), Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and Leicester City (Wilfried Ndidi) are among the many clubs who could lose stars for a month.

Africa Cup of Nations moved, Premier League clubs impacted

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The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon has been moved and it is likely to impact several Premier League clubs.

In a statement the African Football Confederation (CAF) confirmed the switch, as they had previously agreed to hold the tournament in the summer (just like in 2019) but due to the hot weather conditions in host nation Cameroon in the summer time, the Cameroon Football Federation has switched the dates to Jan. 6 to Feb. 6, 2021.

The deputy general secretary of CAF, Tony Baffoe, revealed more details about why the dates have been switched.

“We have reviewed the period of the competition as requested by the Cameroonian party due to unfavourable climatic conditions during the period initially slated. After listening to the various arguments and viewpoints – and in particular from the Cameroonian meteorological authorities, the coaches and players – the representatives of the AFCON organising committee, which received the mandate from CAF Executive Committee to take the decision, has granted this request. A detailed reported shall be presented to the members of the Executive Committee during its next session on 6 February.”

That means the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, to name a few, would be missing for over a month of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

Liverpool would be the Premier League most impacted with Salah and Mane potentially joined by Naby Keita, while Leicester City would potentially lose Nigerian duo Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho, plus Southampton’s Moussa Djenepo and Sofiane Boufal would be unavailable.

Of course, this over a year out and teams haven’t even qualified for the tournament yet, but this will seriously impact the plans of Premier League clubs.

AFCON tournaments have previously been held in January to February but switched to a summer model for the 2019 edition in Egypt, with clubs across Europe delighted by that decision as they were losing star players at a key part of the season.

Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur v. Liverpool

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Tottenham Hotspur would love to be the club to end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season when the two sides meet in North London on Saturday (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Jose Mourinho insists his club believes it can a result despite the dour mood accompanying Harry Kane’s injury.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Liverpool is facing injuries, too, but its trident remains healthy and led by Player of the Season candidate Sadio Mane.

The Reds hold a 13-point lead on the Premier League field and have a match-in-hand on everyone except West Ham United.

Spurs are still very much a part of the race for the Top Four should they be able to again navigate a long Kane absence. Tottenham is six points back of fourth place Chelsea.


Injuries/suspensions

Spurs: OUT —  Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Ben Davies, Tanguy Ndombele, Moussa Sissoko. QUESTIONABLE — Danny Rose.

Liverpool: OUT — Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Fabinho, James Milner, Naby Keita, Nathaniel Clyne. QUESTIONABLE — Xherdan Shaqiri.


Probable lineups

Spurs: Gazzaniga; Vertonghen, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Sessegnon, Dier, Lo Celso, Dele, Aurier; Lucas, Son.

Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mane, Firmino, Salah.


What they’re saying

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho on facing Liverpool: “It’s the best team in our competition, just to say that – I could say more than that. We would prefer to play against them with everybody available. … But again that’s the way it is and we worked hard in the week, and the boys that are available, of course they are happy to play and when somebody doesn’t play you open the opportunity for somebody else, and we know the situation. We know how good they are, we can imagine that in this room only two persons think that we can win. Maybe only two, but we believe (puts his arm around Spurs’ press officer). We have to believe. If you don’t believe, get out man.”

Jurgen Klopp on Jose Mourinho: “A world-class manager with a specific mindset. He wants to win. I respect that a lot. Each situation his team is in he tries to use. That is how managers work. The good news is, we don’t play. We send out two teams and we have to make sure it works out. I don’t think anyone wants to play us right now. Spurs are never easy but they are now so let’s see.”


Prediction

Liverpool’s biggest question mark is in the midfield, but Tottenham’s hit there, too. We imagine this one will be a bit cagier than usual, perhaps even a surprise 1-1.

Klopp reacts to incredible unbeaten league year

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It was just too easy.

Liverpool swarmed over Sheffield United with class and precision, posting a 2-0 win at Anfield on Thursday.

The win came with all the trimmings. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah scored as the Reds out-attempted the Blades 19-3.

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Liverpool had 74 percent of the ball and attempted nearly 1000 passes, completing better than 90 percent of them.

It was no contest, nearly from Moment No. 1, and made Liverpool unbeaten in league play over a calendar year. From the BBC:

“It says a lot of positive things. I have not enough words for it, it is exceptional. We did not think about the year tonight. Our New Year starts at the end of May, so we have season resolutions not New Year resolutions.”

The Reds, of course, will keep taking it one match at a time.

It will be stunning if Liverpool fails to win its first title of the Premier League era. The 13-point lead with a match-in-hand would have to combine a stunning turn of form with someone else going darn near invincible.

That term, though. Trent Alexader-Arnold has it in his head, and the Reds are clearly cognizant of what it would mean to complete the unlikely task of going unbeaten over a league campaign.

“So far we are invincible but we have only just passed the halfway mark so there’s still a long way to go,” said Alexander-Arnold. “It is harder than what people say. We got beaten once last season and that wasn’t enough. We need to keep our concentration in every game.”

The match wasn’t all good news. Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita pulled up in warm-ups and needed to be replaced by James Milner in the Starting XI.

Klopp said Keita will miss the FA Cup derby tie against Everton with a groin injury.

The boss also had big praise for Jordan Henderson.

Liverpool sweeps aside Blades at Anfield

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The party plan for Liverpool’s arrival as Premier League champions appears to be a waltz.

The Reds danced past Sheffield United 2-0 at Anfield with little worry, getting goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool increases its lead to 13 points and still holds a match-in-hand on the chasing pack. The Reds outshot the Blades 19-3 and had 74 percent of the ball.

The two goals come against the third stingiest defense in the league. Sheffield United now sits eighth with 29 points.


Three things we learned

1. Reds score on Blades two let-downs: It’s nothing new that Liverpool is quality on the break, but the Premier League leaders were merciless given two chances at Anfield. The first was Baldock slipping to the turf to allow Robertson to set up Salah, but the second was like a mouse who spied free cheese.

Alisson claimed a looping cross and saw acres of space on his left. A throw to Robertson was quickly at the feet of Mane, who tore down the left before combing with Salah to make it 2-0.

2. Henderson adds to his highlight reel: Twenty-two year old Dean Henderson continues to make a case to both England and parent club Manchester United. The Blades loanee made an incredible stop on Mohamed Salah early in the contest, and had clear command of his box aside from a freak chipped cross from Salah that tapped the post.

3. Keita injury concern: Naby Keita picked up an injury in warm-ups, plugging James Milner into the Starting XI. Keita had been a revelation in recent weeks, looking exactly like the player he was for RB Leipzig before arriving at Anfield. Liverpool is deep but Keita gives them another level, their best midfield three likely involving him, Fabinho, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Man of the Match: Salah and Roberto Firmino each had five shot attempts, but the Egyptian’s lightning quick finish to open the scoring was it. Andrew Robertson was also quite good for the presumptive champs.


The festive gifts are carrying over to the New Year for Liverpool, as George Baldock fell down tracking a cross. That allowed Andrew Robertson an unimpeded path to cross for Salah. No problem. 1-0.

It could’ve been two, but Dean Henderson leapt to paw a Salah flick away from frame after Jordan Henderson spotted the Egyptian’s run.

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Mane came down the left and fed Georginio Wijnaldum, who maneuevered in traffic to whip an 18-yard shot wide of the goal.

Henderson saved a Salah shot again in the 30th minute.

The Blades kept the damage at one until the 65th minute, a break fired down the left side. Henderson stopped Mane’s close-range effort, but the Senegalese was first to the rebound.