Neither Philippe Coutinho or Joel Matip, two of Liverpool’s best players, were in attendance during the Reds’ 4-1 win over Stoke City at Anfield last night and Jurgen Klopp is sweating over their fitness ahead of a crunch clash with Manchester City on Saturday.
Although Liverpool recovered well after Jon Walters put Stoke City 1-0 up in the first half, it’s clear that Joel Matip’s dominance in the centre of defence is missed and his return will be vital to any chance of Liverpool putting a string of solid defensive displays together.
Without Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool have scored 15 goals in six Premier League games which is just under three goals per game. So, there is no doubting that Jurgen Klopp’s side don’t struggle for goals even without Coutinho, but with Mane leaving for the African Cup of Nations after Saturday’s game, the Brazilian’s return is needed.
It has been three games since Joel Matip last played and there are growing concerns surrounding his fitness and when he will return. Given the length of time he has been out and the fact that there isn’t a specific diagnosis, it is quite worrying that the new signing isn’t ready to return to the fold yet.
Ragnar Klavan’s form alongside Dejan Lovren has allowed for Klopp to rest easy knowing that he has a reliable alternative to Matip that isn’t an ageing defensive midfielder. There have actually been suggestions that, with Klavan’s composure on the ball and aggression in the tackle, he’d be a more suitable partner for Matip than Lovren – with the Croat culpable again for Stoke’s goal last night.
Manchester City will make the short trip to Liverpool in a game which will either allow Chelsea to run away with the league title or allow Liverpool to break away from their top four and title contenders.
Coutinho and Matip are doubts for the game with Klopp unlikely to risk either which means that Liverpool could name an unchanged lineup for a third game in a row – something which is a rarity under Klopp.