Klopp salutes Reds' AFCON stars: 'Salah and Mane have chance to achieve something really big'

By Sports Desk February 04, 2022

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is excited for either Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah to "achieve something really big" after reaching the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Senegal and Egypt will face each other for the right to be crowned champions of Africa on Sunday at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.

Mane scored the third goal in Senegal's 3-1 semi-final defeat of Burkina Faso to take his personal tally for the tournament to three, while Salah helped Egypt to a 3-1 penalties win over hosts Cameroon after a 0-0 draw on Thursday.

Klopp has previously been accused of disrespecting the AFCON on several occasions. In 2020, he called the tournament's move from June to January a "catastrophe", then, in November last year, he referred to it as a "little tournament" before claiming he meant the comment in an "ironic" manner.

Now, with two of his best players set to grace the final, Klopp is thrilled to see both with the chance to create history for their nations.

Asked if he had arranged something of a viewing party with the squad, Klopp said: "I have nothing planned yet.

"I didn't think about it, but we've followed it pretty closely. It's a great achievement for both. Naby [Keita] played exceptional in the tournament, too.

"So far it's been a really successful tournament for our boys. It's exciting, but not so easy because one will be really happy after, one much less so.

"Both have a good chance to achieve something really big."

Speaking to the media ahead of Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round clash with Cardiff City, attention soon turned to when Salah and Mane will be available for the Reds again.

Klopp thinks there is a chance both could be available for Thursday's Premier League visit of Leicester City, though he accepts whoever loses in Sunday's final has a better chance of that.

"I think they will be available but we will see," Klopp added. "If one wins they'll probably fly back to home country for a celebration, that's how it is.

"I think Tuesday or Wednesday [is the] latest the winner will be back, the other one slightly earlier.

"Then I have to talk to them. One thing is they have rhythm, played quite a few games, but I have to speak to them."

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    The game featured a number of twists and turns, with Chelsea feeling they had won the game when Reece James put them 2-1 ahead in the 77th minute, only for Tottenham to snatch a point deep into stoppage time through a Harry Kane equaliser.

    After the final whistle sounded and the managers came together to shake hands, Tuchel refused to let go, indicating he did not appreciate Conte's lack of eye-contact, sparking an exchange where the pair had to be separated, and both were shown red cards.

    When queried about the altercation after the game, Tuchel insisted that "it's between two competitors and nothing bad happened" and implied things were being blown out of proportion.

    Conte said he believes the video of the situation exonerates him from any blame, and even implied the next time these sides meet there may not be a handshake, saying "next time we will pay more attention and don't shake the hands and we solve the problem… he stays in his bench, I stay in my bench, with my staff on one side and no problem about this."

    He added: "For sure I am not passive. If I see aggressivity, then my answer is with aggressivity, but I repeat this is not a problem."

    In the hours after the match, Conte took to Instagram to post a story of Tuchel running down the sideline while celebrating James' go-ahead goal to make light of the situation, captioning it: "Lucky I didn't see you… making you trip over would have been well deserved" followed by three laughing smiley faces, indicating it is meant with a tongue-in-cheek tone.

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