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Liverpool receive AFCON boost as Gambia make history with Guinea win


Jurgen Klopp’s midfield has benefitted from Guinea’s downfall as Naby Keita’s national side were dumped out of the Africa Cup of Nations by minnows Gambia at the last-16 stage

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In pictures: Crystal Palace v Liverpool

Liverpool have been handed a huge boost as Naby Keita will now be available sooner than expected following Guinea’s shock elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations.

AFCON debutants The Gambia made history with the victory and will either face Cameroon or Comoros in the quarter-finals.

The former RB Salzburg midfielder usually skippers his country but missed out on their first game of the knockout rounds due to serving a suspension for picking up two yellow cards in the group stages.

Ironically, one of the tackles that saw Keita pick up a yellow was actually on his Anfield teammate Sadio Mane who is representing Senegal at the same tournament.

All three of the Liverpool players that jetted out to Cameroon on international duty saw their respective nations qualify for the round of 16, but Keita will be the first Red back in Merseyside.

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Gambia edged past Guinea at AFCON
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

Mane’s Senegal and Mohamed Salah’s Egypt are yet to play their games and could potentially join Keita back in Liverpool sooner than first anticipated in news that would undoubtedly further delight Klopp.

For now, the Reds boss will simply be overjoyed that he can once again call upon Keita in a midfield that at times has seemed fatigued during the Guinea international’s absence.

The first leg of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal at Anfield ended 0-0 despite the Gunners having to play well over an hour with 10 men following Granit Xhaka’s red card.

Many expected Liverpool to go on and run riot, but they failed to create many meaningful chances and plenty of fans and pundits alike put that down to a makeshift midfield.

None of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson or James Milner managed to break lines, something Keita has proven he can do on a number of occasions this term.

Guinea’s elimination means Keita has been unavailable for Liverpool for just three weeks, while his return comes at the perfect time in the eyes of Klopp.

The Reds do not play again until February 6 for an FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Championship side Cardiff City.






Naby Keita will return to Liverpool following Guinea’s elimination

Their next Premier League contest comes four days later in the form of a mid-week home clash against Leicester City.

There is every chance Klopp offers Keita an extended break and allows him to sit out the trip to Wales, before reintroducing him against the Foxes.

Despite an underwhelming team display, Keita can be proud of his individual exploits in Cameroon after delivering two man of the match performances and netting a thunderous strike against Zimbabwe.

As for Mane and Salah, that duo will both participate in their respective last-16 clashes later this week as Senegal take on Cape Verde on Tuesday before Egypt face off with Ivory Coast a day later.

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