Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits they “desperately” need forward Takumi Minamino to stay fit to cover for the absences of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
With two of his first-choice front line away for a month at the Africa Cup of Nations and Divock Origi still injured, the Reds boss is relying on Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and a fit-again Minamino.
The Japan international has scored nine times in 45 appearances but two thirds of those goals have come in just five Carabao Cup ties, with the competition offering the 26-year-old his best opportunities since arriving from RB Salzburg two years ago.
Minamino has made just four Premier League starts for the club – he has more (nine) for Southampton after a loan spell in the second half of last season – but looks set to have to fill an important role over the next few weeks.
“Taki was injured. Nothing serious but serious enough that he couldn’t play,” Klopp said of a player who made his first appearance in more than two weeks in Sunday’s 4-1 FA Cup third-round win over League One Shrewsbury.
“It’s not the longest rehab in his life hopefully – or maybe it was the longest rehab hopefully.
“But he is back and very important for us, very, very important – especially when we have a lot of games coming up and we know that two of our main guys up front are not here.
“It’s good. I liked Taki a lot when he came on (as a substitute). He’s actually in a really good shape but, of course, the injury interrupted it slightly.
“But now he’s back, it’s good and we need him desperately.”
After becoming the club’s youngest FA Cup goalscorer, and second youngest in the Liverpool’s all-time list, 17-year-old Kaide Gordon will be hoping to supplement the first team’s forward line this month.
After making only his second appearance for the senior side, Gordon’s fellow academy graduate Tyler Morton – a veteran in comparison having played eight times, including twice in the Champions League – is hopeful the teenager will be able to contribute more.
“Kaide’s quality, everyone knows that. Kaide’s very, very good,” he told liverpoolfc.com.
“For a 17-year-old, even coming and playing in these games is going to be tough but the composure he’s got and his left foot, everyone knows he’s just got quality.
“Hopefully this is the first of many, which I think it will be, and I thought he played really well. I’m really happy for him.”