Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp faces a hugely-significant January without talismanic top scorer Mohamed Salah but is confident he can find an acceptable solution among the attacking options at his disposal.
Salah will leave for the African Cup of Nations after Monday’s visit of Newcastle, the first of at least six matches which includes an FA Cup tie at Arsenal and a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final with Fulham.
The 16-goal forward, second behind only Erling Haaland in the Premier League goalscoring stakes with 12 in the top flight this season, will link up with Egypt as they head to the Ivory Coast next week and will potentially be away for over a month.
Klopp has had to deal with it in the past and remains confident his side will do so again as they seek to maintain their place as Premier League leaders.
“It is not the first time, it is a really at least very average situation that you lose your goalscorer but we had it even worse in the past when Sadio (Mane) and Mo left,” he said.
“We came somehow through it and traditionally one of them went pretty far in the tournament, which made it worse.
“We knew the Africa Cup of Nations from time to time appears and Mo has to go and we have (Wataru) Endo as a participant of the Asia Cup (played at the same time) as well, so it is like it is. We have to deal with it and we will.
“Each long-term plan I could have had depends massively on who is available so why should I think in October who I can use when Mo is away when I have no clue who is available?
“We would have solutions today, I hope we have that after the Newcastle game as well.”
The timely return of Diogo Jota after a month out injured is a boost as the Portugal international scored a comeback goal against Burnley on Boxing Day.
Jota’s versatility means he can operate across the forward line, as can Cody Gakpo, while Harvey Elliott has played in Salah’s position even though he is more of a midfielder in Klopp’s system.
“The return of each of the boys is super-important but Diogo especially. Everybody was quite positive about our five options, but I don’t think we had it that often to be honest,” added Klopp.
“Especially with the amount of games we play it is so important these boys can rotate and now with Mo leaving and Endo leaving we need everyone to get back.”
On Jota’s return, Klopp said: “The game is blessed with some of these players who really understand the game on a different level and he is one of them.
“It gives him the chance to see the situations slightly earlier, to adapt to different things the opponent is doing a little bit quicker. On top of that, he is both-footed, a great finisher.
“For these last few games, even when the results were not always outstanding, we found a good rhythm, good fluidity, which is really important.
“It gives you a good feeling, you’d probably call it momentum, and for that you need to be connected and be together in the right moment.”
It is not all good news, however, with left-back Andy Robertson’s recovery from a dislocated shoulder likely to keep him out now for the whole of January.
The Scotland captain, sidelined since October, was expected to return next month but that now may be delayed.
“Robbo still needs more range in his shoulder. Obviously it was a big surgery. (He is) still not even close to team training or whatever,” said Klopp.
“For sure, I think, the full January he has to get closer and closer.”