11 March 2019
Jurgen Klopp went into Sundays’ match with one eye on the upcoming Champions League tie in Munich with the game delicately poised at 0-0. The Reds have faltered in recent weeks allowing title rivals Manchester City to steal a march. And, having watched Pep Guardiola’s men ease past Watford thanks to a quick-fire second-half hat-trick by old boy Raheem Sterling, Liverpool couldn’t afford any slip-ups.
Roberto Firmino was back from his recent ankle injury to start, one of two changes against Burnley, the other being Adam Lallana who was making only his fourth league start of the campaign. The injury-plagued midfielder has endured a number of setbacks over the past few seasons, but having featured in both fixtures this month, he is looking to finish the season on a high.
“It’s been a tough two years for me,” Lallana admitted. “I’ve not been fit consistently for a while so it’s nice to have been fit for eight or nine weeks now and I just feel I can benefit off that rhythm. It was great to get a chance, but it’s not about individuals, it’s about us as a team taking it game by game.”
Looking ahead to Wednesday, Liverpool are anxiously waiting for an update on Trent Alexander-Arnold after he complained of muscle tightness towards the end of the game with Burnley. If he does miss out, then Klopp will hope that James Milner can overcome the hamstring injury which forced him to miss out last weekend.
“It is Millie, so everything heals quicker with him!” Klopp said during Fridays’ press conference. “He was already outside yesterday. He had a little muscle issue, but there are still two days to go until the game. I think if you ask Millie he would say, ‘I will be ready’, but we have to see.”
Dejan Lovren (hamstring) is now back with the squad, and Joe Gomez is scheduled to return after the international break. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stepped up his recovery from a serious knee injury on Friday with the Under-23s. He was expected to play 45 minutes after spending more than ten months out (318 days) but lasted until just before half-time.
“He obviously had a bit of an [hamstring] issue, but hopefully it’s nothing major,” said U23s coach Neil Critchley. “The bonus for him is that it’s not his knee, so he’s delighted there are no problems with that. Hopefully, when he wakes up in the morning, it’s nothing and only a precaution. What was good is that he was sensible. He came off quite quick. He has handled that situation quite well.”
Aymeric Laporte made a surprise appearance on the Manchester City bench following his rapid recovery from a hamstring strain. Speaking earlier this month, Pep seemed resigned to losing the Frenchman until April at the earliest.
“I think after the international break they will be fit, especially Fernandinho,” he said. “Maybe a few days later Ayme [will come back] – we will see.”
But having returned to training in the build-up to the Watford game, he was included on the bench and is now in contention to face Schalke 04 on Tuesday. With City still competing on three fronts, Fabian Delph has also made a timely return to the fore although Benjamin Mendy continues to be overlooked despite the manager’s insistence that he is now injury-free. Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring) and John Stones (groin) remain sidelined.
Across Manchester, injury problems are starting to ease for United. Anthony Martial, Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic were all included in the matchday squad at the Emirates while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Ander Herrera was close to being involved. Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard (both hamstring) have also been pictured on the training pitches.
“They are coming back, maybe for Wolves,” Ole told MUTV on Sunday. “But after the international break we’ll have a full squad fit, and the ones who’ve come in when the regulars have been injured have done really well. We’ll be ready for that.”
That would also suggest that Alexis Sanchez (MCL knee) is also on schedule to return within the clubs’ initial 4-6 week timeframe, and twice as fast the Chile national physio suggested after seeing the results of his scan.
With just eight games remaining, the bottom two, Huddersfield Town and Fulham, look resigned to relegation. On Thursday, Terriers boss Jan Siewert admitted that he was a little “short on numbers” with up to nine players at risk of missing out against Bournemouth. However, a run of nine consecutive losses on the road offered the home side a glimmer of hope, although they didn’t bank on the return of Callum Wilson, who picked up where he left off prior to knee surgery.
The England international combined with Ryan Fraser for the opener before turning provider to leave Huddersfield 16pts from safety. Next weekends’ trip to the London Stadium is a must-win, and Jan Siewert will be hoping to have a few more players at his disposal. The fixture is likely to come too soon for Adama Diakhaby (hamstring), Danny Williams (knee) and Isaac Mbenza (calf). But Tommy Smith returns after suspension and Demeaco Duhaney (hip) / Laurent Depoitre (foot) should be close. There is a little uncertainty over the availability of Jonathan Hogg, who was injured at Brighton (GW29) and Terence Kongolo who was a surprise omission from the squad on Saturday.
“With Hoggy, maybe it could take a few more weeks. I am not sure – it depends on his rib,” a despondent Siewert said post-match, before offering an update on Kongolo. “It is a small [hip] muscle problem. Hopefully, he can come back before the break. But I am not quite sure; maybe it will have to be after.”
Not to be outdone, Bournemouth left the John Smith’s Stadium with their own set of problems. Adam Smith is set for a few weeks out after his afternoon ended on a sour note.
“Adam was a hamstring problem, so we will wait and see over the extent of that,” Eddie Howe said after the win. “I think he felt it very early in the match and carried on, and then felt it again when he was sprinting down the line, just before he came off. So that’s a worry for us.”
Fortunately, the withdrawal of David Brooks looks to be precautionary following his recent return from an ankle ligament injury.
“I think David is okay. I don’t know; I need to check. I think his was more cramp due to the fact he had been out so long. He was just very fatigued [due to his lack of training].”
Callum Wilson came through 90 minutes unscathed and will be looking to make up for lost time against Newcastle to force his way into the England reckoning for the upcoming European Championship qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.
Of the rest. Joe Bennett (hamstring) will be assessed, although the full-back has 22-days before his next game due to Brighton’s involvement in the FA Cup. Victor Camarasa (calf) was suffering from cramp on Saturday and should be fine. However, any decision on his availability will be taken by his own medical team as Real Betis continue to manage the on-loan midfielder. Florin Andone was rewarded with a start in the early kick-off at Selhurst Park after his winning goal (vs Huddersfield) in GW29, but a thigh injury suffered in the warm-up scuppered his chances, with former Eagle Glenn Murray, taking his place. The striker scored a superbly taken goal as Brighton made it back-to-back wins to ease the threat of relegation.
And finally, an injury to substitute Shane Long left the Saints without a recognised forward on the pitch. But the hosts need not have worried as his replacement Stuart Armstrong was on hand to turn the game on its head with two assists. Ralph Hasenhüttl confirmed Long “got a kick on the hamstring” which shouldn’t see the Irishman out for any significant period. Southampton have three weeks off, and the break should provide plenty of time to empty the physio room for the season run-in. Danny Ings (hamstring) and Mario Lemina (abdominal) are likely to feature in a couple of behind closed doors friendlies, but Michael Obafemi will not play again in 2018/19.
Due to the FA Cup quarter-finals, there are only five Premier League fixtures scheduled for game week thirty-one. So, make sure you keep following for all of the latest, and breaking, player and team news updates.