Liverpool and Chelsea receive AFCON boost ahead of crunch Premier League title showdown

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Liverpool and Chelsea have been handed major boosts ahead of their crunch meeting at Stamford Bridge on January 3 after the CAF approved the delayed arrival of the Premier League’s African players prior to AFCON. There had previously been fears that clubs would lose their stars after today’s Boxing Day matches but managers will now get the chance to keep them until the New Year.

And that is particularly of significance to both the Reds and Blues, who lock horns on January 3 in west London.

The two title contenders played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Anfield earlier in the season when Reece James was sent off for handling on the line.

Unsurprisingly, it was Mohamed Salah who stepped up and converted from the penalty spot.

The Egyptian could prove key for Liverpool if they are to take the points against his former side while the presence of Sadio Mane and Naby Keita will also be welcomed.

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Liverpool will play just two Premier League games throughout the trio’s time at AFCON, permitting they reach the final.

That’s because Jurgen Klopp’s side play their two Carabao Cup semi-finals and their FA Cup third-round clash with Shrewsbury.

Meanwhile, Chelsea will be able to call up their No 1 goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who remains key despite his recent dip in form.

Second-choice goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has failed to prove reliable since being dropped from the starting XI, highlighting just how much of a boost Mendy’s availability is against the Reds.

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Hakim Ziyech will also be available. He was not selected by Morocco after a fallout with his manager.

There are other Premier League teams that will profit though.

Manchester City will be able to keep Riyad Mahrez for matches against Brentford and Arsenal.

Arsenal will also be keeping hold of Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe.

Manchester United are set to lose Ivorian duo Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo.

Meanwhile, Leicester are one of the most affected teams in the top-flight.

The Foxes, who have struggled to replicate the form they have shown in recent years, will lose Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, Nampalys Mendy and Daniel Amartey.

Watford will also lose Nigerian trio Peter Etebo, William Troost-Ekong and Emmanuel Dennis while Ismaila Sarr and Adam Masina Will also be absent.

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