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AFCON 2022: How the tournament could tilt the EPL title race in the favour of both Manchester clubs

The 2021/2022 Premier League title race is already on with only two points separating to top 6 teams on the table after 7 games.

Incidentally, the top 4 teams on the table at the moment are Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, in that order.

With the AFCON coming up in January, Chelsea and Liverpool will be hoping to extend their lead over the Manchester clubs as player absentees during the tournament could change the direction of the title race.

Liverpool will be the worst hit of the top clubs as 2/3 of Jürgen Klopp's first choice players in the attack will be on duty for their respective countries at the competition. As if the absence of Mohamed Salah and Saido Mané are not enough, Joel Matip, who is also a starting defender will have to travel for the tournament. Naby Keita, although in and out of the starting lineup, is another player the Reds will lose in January.

**Salah (l), Keita (m) and Mané (r) will leave for the AFCON in January

Liverpool may lose four key players for the AFCON compared to Chelsea's one, but the one player Chelsea will be losing is one they wouldn't want to lose.

Edouard Mendy has brought a much needed stability in Chelsea's goal since his arrival. He is the blues' undisputed number 1 goalkeeper. While Kepa Arizzabalaga's renaissance in the last one year has been impressed, he is not quite at the level of the Senegalese.

Chelsea are weaker in the goalkeeping area without Mendy. Opposition attackers will surely prefer facing Kepa in Chelsea's goal than the UEFA goalkeeper of the year.

**Edouard Mendy (l) and Kepa Arizzabalaga (r)

It is difficult to predict how Liverpool and Chelsea will cope without their key players in January but there is a good possibility that they might struggle during the period, especially the Reds. This is where the advantage comes in for both Manchester clubs.

While their rivals will have to find a way to cope without their key players, the Manchester clubs will have their full starting XIs available.

Riyad Mahrez hasn't been a starter for City so far this season and as such, the Citizens, who have a squad with quality in depth, will not miss him when the AFCON arrives. No African player is currently in Manchester United's starting XI.

It already looks like there is going to be a close title race this season but January could be very vital for the club that emerges winner at the end.

Chelsea and Liverpool will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the table before the AFCON and of course, try to find a way to cope without their key players when they leave. Manchester United and City, on the other hand, will not want to depend on their possible advantage during the AFCON as it is not 100% certain that their rivals will drop points during the period. Neither is it 100% certain that they will capitalise if their rivals do drop points.

In the next three months, the world will find out how the AFCON affects the title race. Who knows? The Manchester clubs may not really get the advantage after all.

Content created and supplied by: PhysioTEA (via Opera News )

AFCON Chelsea Liverpool Manchester United Mohamed Salah

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