Liverpool fans must feel as if the Africa Cup of Nations has conspired against them.
After the semi-finals in midweek, Senegal will meet Egypt in the final, pitting Sadio Mane (£4.6m) against Mohamed Salah (£8.2m).
The two club team-mates will face off on Sunday night and will therefore miss the Reds’ FA Cup fixture against Cardiff this weekend.
However, in a surprising twist, Jurgen Klopp has said that both men will be available when Leicester visit Anfield next Thursday.
Speaking in his Friday press conference, the German tactician said: “I think they will be available for Thursday. Whichever one wins will probably fly back to their home country [to celebrate]. Whoever wins will be back here Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Salah has played 120 minutes in the round of 16, quarter-final and the semi-final of AFCON – the most demanding workload possible.
As arguably the most in-form player in the world right now, the 29-year-old is crucial to both club and country but Liverpool will surely be mindful of overworking their top scorer.
It’s possible that Salah, who has scored 23 goals and provided nine assists in all competitions for the Reds this term, may some part against the Foxes without completing the full 90 minutes.
It’s understandable that the focus is on Salah since he’s by far and away Dream Team’s best performer in 2021/22 – he’s on 233 points, the only double centurion at this stage.
Of course, many Dream Team bosses will also be interested in Mane, the seventh-best forward in the game at the time of writing with 93 points.
Senegal have avoided gruelling extra time periods at AFCON and so Liverpool’s No10 will be less fatigued when he returns to Merseyside.
If Mane loses the final in Cameroon then he could well start against Brendan Rodgers’ side on Thursday.
Klopp’s comments, while encouraging in many respects, pose something of a conundrum for Dream Team gaffers.
The situation would be much easier if Salah and Mane were ruled out until the following Game Week but now every gaffer has a decision to make: is it best to transfer one or both of them in now to benefit from any points they may take off Leicester?
Such a strategy could go wrong if the pair are only given brief cameos and blank while the players most likely to be transferred out for them, Cristiano Ronaldo (£7.9m) and Harry Kane (£7.1m) for example, could rack up big points against Middlesbrough/Burnley and Brighton/Southampton respectively.
It’s easy to seen how caution could be punished as well – the Foxes have leaked goals this season and could easily be shredded if Salah and Mane are unleashed upon them, even for just a short time.
It’s a tight call that could shape mini-leagues up and down the country.