How Wataru Endo is faring at Asian Cup & when he might return for Liverpool

Wataru Endo was always going to be a big miss for Liverpool. 

The 30-year-old had just settled at Anfield prior to jetting off to Qatar, putting in a string of dazzling performances following Alexis Mac Allister's injury.

Fortunately, the Argentine has returned to the starting lineup and been in fantastic form himself, but Endo remains a significant absentee on Merseyside.

The midfielder is currently away with Japan at the Asian Cup, hoping to captain the nation to their first triumph in the competition since 2011.

So, how is the former Stuttgart man getting on and when might he return for the Reds?


HOW HAS WATARU ENDO FARED AT THE ASIAN CUP?

With Japan among the favourites for the Asian Cup, it's hardly surprising that the Samurai Blue have progressed to the knockout phase of the competition after a successful group stage.

Endo has been heavily involved for his country, helping kick off their campaign with a 4-2 victory over Vietnam.

Liverpool's No. 3 managed an assist for former Red Takumi Minamino in Japan's opener, the latter bagging a brace and grabbing an assist himself.

Rumoured Liverpool target Takefusa Kubo also set up Japan's fourth, giving them a much-needed three points in their first Asian Cup encounter.

That victory turned out to be very significant heading into Japan's second group game, the Asian giants suffering a shock defeat at the hands of lowly Iraq.

An Ayman Hussein brace meant that the 63rd-ranked side in the world pulled off a surprise victory, but Endo did end his three-year wait for a Japan goal in stoppage-time despite it being a mere consolation.

Endo played the entirety of Japan's final group game against Indonesia, his side easing to a 3-1 victory that secured progression to the next round.

Somewhat unsurprisingly to Liverpool supporters, Endo was booked despite playing well against the Asian minnows.

WHEN MIGHT WATARU ENDO RETURN TO LIVERPOOL?

With Japan expected to go deep into the Asian Cup, Liverpool may be without Endo for a significant period still.

The four-time Asian Cup champions have been drawn against Bahrain in the round of 16, a game which will be played on 31 January - the same day Liverpool face Chelsea in the Premier League.

Bahrain are 69 places below Japan in the FIFA rankings, but they did manage to actually top their group ahead of Heung-min Son's South Korea after narrow victories over Jordan and Malaysia.

If Japan beat Bahrain, they would face either Iran or Syria in the quarter-final, followed by a likely encounter with hosts Qatar should they progress.

Japan's most likely final opponents would be South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Australia, all of whom are on the other side of the draw.

If Endo makes it all the way to the showpiece event on 10 February, he will be guaranteed to miss four games for Liverpool - clashes with Norwich City in the FA Cup and Chelsea, Arsenal and Burnley in the Premier League.

However, Liverpool might be secretly hoping that Japan exit the competition at an earlier date, with a potential quarter-final against Iran a tricky tie.

If Japan don't make it past the last eight, Endo would be back for the Burnley meeting on 10 February, while a last 16 exit would enable him to return for the Premier League showdown with Arsenal.

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