Sadio Mane has left Liverpool for Gabon - with another goal as a leaving present.
One of the Reds’ players of the season so far, his absence will leave a huge hole in Jurgen Klopp’s attacking options.
But just how many games will Mane miss?
We look at Senegal’s Africa Cup of Nations opponents and try to work out just what matches Mane will be ruled out of....
How far can Senegal go?
All the way, according to the bookies.
Mane’s Senegal are the tournament’s second favourites behind Ivory Coast.
But there is hope!
Senegal find themselves in Group B. It’s not exactly a Group of Death but it does contain the tournament’s third-favourites Algeria, a useful Tunisia side and then the whipping boys of Zimbabwe.
The Lions of Teranga (Senegal’s nickname) kick-off against Tunisia in Franceville on January 20 (8pm) in what could be a pivotal game in the group.
Senegal then play Zimbabwe on the 19th and finish against Algeria on Monday January 23.
That definitely rules Mane out of the FA Cup tie with Plymouth, the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final at Southampton, the trip to Old Trafford and the visit of Swansea to Anfield.
So what next?
If Senegal fail to make it out of their Group, which is possible, Mane could feasibly be back for the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final against Southampton, but that would mean him playing just 48 hours after his final group match.
More realistic is the visit of Chelsea on Tuesday 31st, three days after the FA Cup fourth round - assuming Liverpool get through, of course.
Who could their quarter-final opponents be?
If Senegal progress from Group B, they are then likely to face either hosts Gabon or fancied Cameroon in the first knockout stage on Sunday, January 28.
The visit of Chelsea is just 48 hours later on the Tuesday night, effectively ruling Mane out.
The semi-finals then take place on Wednesday February 1 and Thursday February 2, just days before Liverpool’s Saturday afternoon trip to Hull.
The Africa Cup of Nations final takes place on Sunday February 5 with the third/fourth place play-off the previous day when Liverpool are on Humberside.
So when will Mane definitely be back?
Mane SHOULD be back for the visit of Tottenham on Saturday, February 11.
That’s only ‘should’, because back in 2008 Everton striker Yakubu returned to Merseyside two days later than Nigerian team-mate Joseph Yobo, and as a result missed a league match against Reading.
Jurgen Klopp won’t be penciling Mane back onto his teamsheet until he’s seen the forward get through a number of training sessions.
But if Senegal DO go all the way, at least match sharpness shouldn’t be an issue.
Source: Liverpool Echo
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