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Keita included in Guinea's AFCON squad despite Liverpool's fitness concerns

16:05 BST 25/05/2019
Naby Keita Liverpool 2018-19
The Reds midfielder was initially ruled out for two months with a thigh problem, but his country expect him to be ready for international duty

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita has been included in Guinea’s preliminary squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations despite lingering concerns regarding his fitness.

The 24-year-old picked up a thigh problem during a Champions League semi-final clash with Barcelona on May 1.

His domestic season was considered to be over, while doubts were cast over his involvement in international competition.

Liverpool initially suggested that Keita would be sidelined for up to two months.

Guinea were quick to refute that diagnosis, with it claimed that the Reds had made a “hasty and pretentious call”.

They have remained adamant that a key part of their plans will be fit enough to link up with his country.

That confidence has been taken a step further by head coach Paul Put, with Keita included in a 25-man party ahead of a continental tournament in Egypt.

In his latest update, Klopp admitted that positive progress was being made in a rehabilitation programme.

He did, however, stop short of ruling Keita into his plans for a Champions League final clash with Tottenham on June 1, telling Liverpool’s official website: “Naby is, I would say, a bit ahead of schedule, but that doesn’t mean anything for the final.

“He is now doing straight runs and all of that stuff, he feels comfortable with 50 per cent intensity and these things – but there is still a way to go.

“I know about the issues with Guinea and stuff like that; we don’t want to keep a player out if he can play – maybe they think it is like this, but it is not like this.

“For me, it would be good if Naby would be 100 per cent fit and could play the Africa Cup of Nations, to be 100 per cent honest. But we don’t know, we will see, and we need to work together with their medical department because in the end, a player who is fit – from my point of view – who can play, should play for his country.

“If he is not 100 per cent fit, he cannot play. That’s how it is. It is not important whether you play for your country or your club. That’s what we try to make sure. It looks good, very positive and we will see if there is a chance.”

Guinea have friendly outings pencilled in for June 7 and 11 against The Gambia and Benin respectively.

They are then due to open their Cup of Nations campaign against Madagascar on June 22.

Further Group B fixtures will be taken in against Nigeria and Burundi, with it yet to be determined whether Keita will play any part in those contests.