Liverpool face Leicester in the Premier League this evening and Jurgen Klopp has confirmed that Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago and Curtis Jones are all in contention to start after the end of their COVID-19 isolation periods.
Due to new UK government regulations relating to the new dominant COVID-19 strain, Omnicron, the Liverpool quartet was able to return to the beautiful AXA training centre sooner than initially anticipated.
This has bolstered Klopp’s potential starting XI to face the Foxes and with the Reds looking to halve a worrying six-point deficit between them and Manchester City at the pinnacle of the Premier League table, their return is very welcome.
Virgil van Dijk record highlights his incredible importance to Liverpool
When Liverpool demolished the world record fee paid for a defender by paying £75million to Southampton for the Dutchman, there were many that questioned the logic behind the move.
At least some of them have had the sense to backtrack.
— Ronan Murphy (@swearimnotpaul) December 27, 2021
Man City, who were reportedly looking to sign van Dijk at the time, were infamously going to bring him in behind Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones initially.
Otamendi is now in Portugal with Benfica enjoying a respectable title race with Sporting and Porto but nowhere near the level that van Dijk is at while Stones, who recently signed a bumper £250,000/week contract extension has appeared for just 411 minutes in the Premier League this season.
Van Dijk, despite returning from an ACL injury that destroyed his 2020/21 season and stripped Liverpool of just about every chance of winning a major trophy last term, is back in the side and while he slowly worked his way back to full fitness, is back at the level he was when he got injured.
It’s four years since he joined Liverpool. It’s also been 56 games since he lost a Premier League match with the Reds which underlines the influence that he has on this amazing side.
Too many uneducated fans talk about Ruben Dias and Raphael Varane in relation to the big man when in reality only Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger and Joel Matip can touch the levels that van Dijk set a few years ago and even then they are flawed defenders.
If Liverpool are going to be successful this season, it’s going to depend a lot on whether or not van Dijk and Matip can win their individual battles when Klopp’s 4-2-4 formation when in possession demands they win the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch.
Having him back from his COVID-19 isolation spell is huge even if it was short-lived.
Fabinho is back but Liverpool should consider signing cover for him
Phew. If anything has taught us a lesson it’s that Fabinho, van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah are all as important as each other as far as they are irreplaceable in their roles in this Liverpool side.
You can add Alisson Becker to that list even if he makes me p*** my pants every time he gets on the ball.
When Liverpool were forced to field 18-year-old Tyler Morton, 34-year-old James Milner and fresh-from-injury Naby Keita against Spurs, who were fresh from a 10-day break following the Premier League’s decision to postpone a couple of their games due to COVID-19, Fabinho was the player that was most missed in the middle of the park.
It’s a cliché, but Tottenham sliced through the Reds like a hot knife through butter.
Yes, Alisson gifted Heung-Min Son a tap-in later in the second half but had it not been for the Brazilian (arguably the best 1v1 showstopper right now) Liverpool might have lost 3-1 or 3-2 and deservedly so and even if you ignore the refereeing controversy, Klopp needs to bring FSG’s attention to Liverpool’s potential need to sign cover for Fabinho.
When he’s not in the side and Henderson or another midfielder is in the no.6 role, Liverpool suffer and are not nearly as efficient with their counter-pressing and play on the back foot and it’s something that was an issue last season when he picked up a string of muscle injuries.
Thiago, speaking to Stadium Astro, is aware of just how good his teammate is and with the Reds often squeezing teams high up the pitch in a hyper-aggressive 4-2-4, Fabinho’s ability to steal the ball is vital to avoid Liverpool’s press being beaten.
He said: “He’s a world-class player that gives us confidence to try different things. Because if we fail doing that, we know we have a guy we can rely on. He will defend, he will be there for you and also he is a magnificent player on the ball.”
Speaking of Thiago, Liverpool have missed his control and technique
There’s an argument to be made that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deserves to be rewarded for his Steven Gerrard-Esque display against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup but when your best players are fit you have to start them and there is no doubting that Thiago is one of Liverpool’s three best midfielders.
The Spaniard’s control and ability to dictate the tempo of a match is going to be so crucial for Liverpool as the season progresses.
It might seem unfair to criticise Thiago as I haven’t said a bad word about any of the other players in this article but I will say the former Bayern Munich star needs to cut out the lazy passes in dangerous areas as they will prove more and more costly as the season draws on.
For now, he can get away with them but when there are only 7-10 games left or even fewer, with little time to make up for costly errors and with a robotic Manchester City side unlikely to be forgiving of such mistakes, Liverpool fans need Thiago to be at his magnificent best.
Hopefully, Klopp fields all three of Fabinho, Thiago and van Dijk against Leicester and the Reds batter Brendan Rodgers’ side for resting their key players against Man City in hopes of getting a result against Liverpool.
Curtis Jones might seem like an afterthought but he’s really not…
The young Englishman has had a s*** terrible time of things this season.
In pre-season, he suffered a concussion and was forced to miss two weeks as per protocol before he then missed 56 days due to a freak eye injury.
Then, he got COVID-19 and is now back in training and will likely slowly be worked back into games to regain match fitness but he’s a talented player and it won’t be long until he reminds Liverpool fans of his immense talent.
He got an assist against Man City although, to be fair, Mohamed Salah did all the hard work by flying past four or five City players but in the game prior to that, against Porto, Jones got a brace of assists in the Champions League against Porto.
And in the game before that, he scored a belter, with the help of an assist admittedly, against Brentford.
All that said, Jones has the potential, coaching and talent around him to become a top player and just needs that little bit of luck and that extra push to go do so.