The Africa Cup of Nations and Asia Cup are the international continental championships for Africa and Asia, respectively. To put it more simply, they are the equivalent of the European Championship (or Euros). However, whilst the Euros, like the World Cup are (usually!) scheduled for the summer months when most major European leagues are in the off-season, AFCON and the Asia Cup frequently clash with the main seasons of the Premier League, La Liga and so on.
Strangely – although in recent times such things have become more common – the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will take place in 2024. Ivory Coast is hosting the tournament with the first game on the 13th of January and the final pencilled in for the 11th of February. The Asia Cup, which traditionally has been less of a big deal in terms of its impact on the Premier League, runs at more or less the same time, from the 12th of January until the 10th of February. This will also be the “2023” edition, with Qatar hosting and the delay down to the host’s involvement in the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup and also their insanely hot summer temperatures which means it could never host a World Cup (never, right?).
There are 24 nations at the Asia Cup, with Australia joining Asian nations such as the hosts, China, Japan, Iran and Indonesia, to name just a few. AFCON will also feature 24 nations including big-hitters such as Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana and defending champions Senegal, plus some smaller nations (at least in football terms) like Gambia, Angola, Cape Verde and Namibia.
Such is the global nature of the Premier League these days, it is no surprise that there are many players from the 48 countries featuring at these two major tournaments that play their club football in England. But how will Liverpool be affected? What players will the Reds miss, what games might they be unavailable for and how does that compare to other teams competing at the top end of the EPL?
Liverpool Players at AFCON or Asia Cup 2023 (2024)
The most obvious loss to Liverpool will, of course, be Mo Salah, who will represent Egypt at AFCON. But he is not the only one, as the Reds’ Japanese midfielder, Wataru Endō, will be heading off to play in the Asia Cup too. Endō will be a loss as he is versatile and has been playing an increasing number of minutes. In fact, thus far, he has played just under 700-minutes in the Premier League, spread over 15 games.
There is no doubt, however, that the absence of Salah will be of far more concern to Jürgen Klopp and all Reds. Salah is the team’s best player and top scorer – in fact, he is level with Erling Haaland as the Premier League’s top striker this term. Moreover, Salah is also joint-top of the assists chart, level with Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins. In total, the Egyptian King boasts 14 goals and eight assists in the PL this season, giving him an incredible 22 goal involvements from just 20 games.
Salah will very obviously be a huge loss to Liverpool and has started every league game this term, playing 97% of the available minutes. As well as his hard stats, his impact on the team cannot be overstated, because his threat often creates space and time for others too. Liverpool have an impressive wealth of attacking options, with Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz all among the goals this season… but none of them are at Salah’s level.
What Games Might Salah & Endo Miss?
As stated, these two international tournaments run for the best part of a month, from mid-January to mid-February. Of course players are released from their club prior to their nation’s first game, whilst travel back from the Ivory Coast and Qatar also has to be factored in. Additionally, what games Liverpool’s two players will miss depends on how far their respective nations go.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, if not for Salah and Endo, their countries are well-fancied to have strong showings. Japan are the current favourites for the Asian Cup, just ahead of South Korea, but based on the bookies’ odds are given around a 45% shot of making the final at least, meaning Endo would miss the maximum number of games.
As for Egypt, they made the final at the last tournament and also in 2017, winning in 2006, 2008 and 2010. With seven AFCON titles in total, they are the most successful nation in the competition’s history and this time around they are the fifth favourite. However, the AFCON betting is far more open, with very little to separate the top eight according to the bookmakers. As such, Mo and Egypt could easily go all the way but at the same time an exit at the quarters, or possibly even the last 16, is not impossible.
Liverpool’s next fixtures are their FA Cup clash with Arsenal on Sunday the 7th of January, then three days later they face Fulham in the League Cup. They are then away at Bournemouth on the 13th in the Premier League before the second leg of the EFL Cup semi on the 24th. Salah will definitely miss all of those games, which means things may not be too bad in terms of the Premier League.
However, if the Reds superstar fires Egypt to the later stages of the competition, he might miss as many as nine games. That includes a possible FA Cup replay and the fourth round of that competition, but it also could include big games in the PL against Chelsea (31st January) and Burnley (10th February), plus the blockbuster trip to Arsenal on the 4th of February. The quarter finals of the competition are on the 2nd and 3rd of February.
How Do Liverpool Compare to Other PL Clubs?
It is a similar picture for Endo, although there is probably a greater chance that Japan will make a deep run, so there is more chance that he will miss a higher number of games. But how does Liverpool’s loss of these two players compare to key rivals?
Unfortunately, no side will be affected quite as badly, certainly not among the Reds’ major rivals for silverware. Liverpool are losing their best player and indeed the top scorer and assist-maker in the whole league. Arsenal have a couple of players away who are not starters, Villa are hardly affected, whilst most worryingly for Klopp and co, Man City will not have any players at either tournament.
Nottingham Forest will be without the most players (six), but that is hardly a concern for Liverpool. Sorry, Mo, and all Egyptian Reds, but it is fingers crossed for an early AFCON exit for Egypt!