Liverpool’s injury crisis has deepened ahead of their trip to Stoke City with Sadio Mane undergoing season-ending surgery and Philippe Coutinho the latest fighting for fitness.
Having confirmed Mane needs a knee operation and won’t feature in the remaining seven games, the news is getting bleaker for manager Jurgen Klopp.
Coutinho was taken ill against Bournemouth and has not trained since. Klopp admitted it was doubtful the Brazilian would feature at the Bet365 Stadium and he was considering which of his young reserves to promote to senior duty.
Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson are also still out.
Mane was hurt in last weekend’s Merseyside derby. Liverpool are yet to win in the Premier League this season without him. They also average a goal a game more than the Senegal striker is in the side.
“I am pretty sure Sadio will need surgery but I am not 100 per cent sure when it will happen but it is clear 'season over',” said Klopp.
“That is what I half-expected when I saw him after the game. I felt he was lucky that not more happened but we are close enough to the end of the season that it will be pretty much impossible to play again this season. He will get a longer break and will be ready for next season. That is the only good news.”
Coutinho, who was subbed early against Bournemouth after vomiting at half-time, is unwell.
“Phil is still ill. He was not at Melwood Thursday and he will not be here Friday. He feels much better but we will have to see if we can bring him,” said Klopp.
“Stoke is not too far away so we will give him all the time he needs.
Klopp would love to recall Daniel Sturridge but said the England striker can’t play 90 minutes.
“We all know about his quality, there is no doubt about that, and it's good to have him back but difficult to put him straight back,” said Klopp.
“Friday's session will be only his third and it will be a high intensity game at Stoke so it's difficult. It is a risk and he's no chance of playing 90 minutes and if he starts then you would have to change. That's the situation – it is better than when he is not in training but it is still early.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Woodburn and Harry Wilson are in the squad. There could also be an opportunity for midfielder Marko Grujic, who has endured an injury-ravaged first year in English football.
“I love giving these boys an opportunity but it has to be the right situation and the game against Bournemouth didn't look like the perfect moment to give them the responsibility for the rest of the game,” said Klopp.
“Everybody saw it. It was not perfect and I made the decision. The young boys give us a few options – it's about Ben, Trent, Harry, Marko Grujic – and these are the boys we have to think about but also about the position, who can help us where and can we create a situation where they can really perform?”
Despite the problems, Klopp said he remained upbeat about Liverpool’s chances of keeping their top four challengers at bay.
“I feel confidence in this moment because I know about football and I know what is possible and I know what it’s not about,” he said.
“The only thing we have to forget, if you want, is that we are Liverpool and have to play like Liverpool. We have to be a real challenge for Stoke. That is what we have to be. We can be this. That is how most of the teams are playing against us – to defend as good as possible and then use the situations to create with this. That is how we will play, 100 per cent. You can win football games with each line-up. That is the nice thing about this game. That is what I know, I feel and for sure will say in different ways for the next 24 or more hours.”