Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders insists the Reds will be able to cope despite Covid-19 concerns and the departure of key players to the Africa Cup of Nations.

The club were left to count the cost of not just conceding a winning position in Sunday's thrilling Premier League draw against Chelsea but also Covid-19 issues.

Manager Jurgen Klopp and senior players Alisson Becker, Joel Matip and Roberto Firmino missed the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge due to suspected positive coronavirus tests. Republic of Ireland international Caoimhin Kelleher replaced Alisson in goal, earning praise from centre-back Virgil van Dijk for his performance.

But Liverpool will now also see the goalscorers against Chelsea, Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Sadio Mane (Senegal), as well as midfielder Naby Keita (Guinea), head off to the AFCON which kicks off in Cameroon on 9 January.

Lijnders however played down the notion that the club have any worries over their squad situation.

Instead he revealed that he told Liverpool's African stars to light up the competition and do everything they can to bring the trophy back to their respective countries.

"I've spoken to Naby, Mo and Sadio, and told them that they should try to win the AFCON, because it's a prize to catch, the careers are never long and they deserve to fight for each prize," said Lijnders.

"It's a tournament with such passion and such culture.

"They are African legends, legends for me already; but if they win they will become even more legendary.

"We also have fight in the boys we have, and hopefully we have a few more boys coming back."

Meanwhile, Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta called on his side to step up in order to mount a serious title challenge against runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The Blues players delivered an important result in the absence of dropped striker Romelu Lukaku, but still slipped 10 points behind defending champions City.

But captain Azpilicueta admitted Chelsea's grafting point against Liverpool still represented a better result for Pep Guardiola's pacesetters.

Asked if City were the bigger winners in the wake of their closest chasers drawing, Azpilicueta replied: "Of course. They are the top. It's football.

"They've been setting the standards in the Premier League high.

"It was up to us to close the gap at the beginning of the season. We need to raise our level."