Walk­ing wounded ham­per­ing Reds’ chase of Chelsea

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Liver­pool

A lit­tle more luck with in­juries is all that sep­a­rates Liver­pool from Premier League leader Chelsea, ac­cord­ing to Reds boss Jur­gen Klopp.

Ahead of to­day’s visit of Stoke City to An­field, Liver­pool is sec­ond in the stand­ings, trail­ing Chelsea by six points as it strug­gles to stay in touch with An­to­nio Conte’s Blues.

The Merseysiders have two losses this sea­son, but are miss­ing the in­flu­en­tial Philippe Coutinho as they pre­pare for the first of two home matches be­fore the end of the year.

“I am pretty sure that un­til now Chelsea are maybe the team that have had the most luck with in­juries. We lost Phil (Coutinho) and Daniel (Stur­ridge) and Danny Ings in dif­fi­cult mo­ments when you re­ally could use them,” Klopp told Sky Sports News.

“If it’s (Eden) Hazard and (Diego) Costa at Chelsea, is it the same af­ter­wards?”

Coutinho is not likely to re­turn be­fore the new year due to an an­kle in­jury, while de­fender Joel Matip is also strug­gling for fit­ness as the Reds wel­come Stoke and then Pep Guardi­ola’s Manch­ester City over the next week.

“We can­not rush the sit­u­a­tion and we don’t want to rush it. We have to ac­cept the more or less big­ger steps in his im­prove­ment with this se­ri­ous in­jury,” Klopp said of Coutinho.

“When­ever he is back, the sea­son is long enough that he can help us. We can­not rush it just be­cause there are a few games now. That can­not have an in­flu­ence on our de­ci­sions.”

Klopp, who had his squad in for train­ing on Christ­mas Day de­spite the ex­tra 24 hours to pre­pare for the visit of the Pot­ters, could stick with an un­changed start­ing lineup as Liver­pool looks to build on con­sec­u­tive wins at Mid­dles­brough and Ever­ton.

Goal­keeper Si­mon Mig­no­let should keep his place af­ter record­ing shoutouts in those matches.

Liver­pool will hope to main­tain its im­pres­sive home record.

It is un­beaten in nine An­field games in all com­pe­ti­tions this sea­son and has not lost in front of the Kop since Stoke won 1-0 in the EFL Cup semi­fi­nal sec­ond leg on Jan­uary 26 — Liver­pool even­tu­ally won that tie on penal­ties.

We can­not rush the sit­u­a­tion and we don’t want to rush it. We have to ac­cept the more or less big­ger steps in his im­prove­ment with this se­ri­ous in­jury.” Jur­gen Klopp,

Hughes stoked

Mid-ta­ble Stoke heads to Mersey­side hav­ing failed to win in three matches, in­clud­ing a 2-2 draw at home to Le­ices­ter City when it squan­dered a two-goal lead.

Stoke could not have asked for a tougher fes­tive pe­riod, with a trip to Chelsea com­ing on New Year’s Eve, but Pot­ters man­ager Mark Hughes is back­ing his team to spring a sur­prise.

“We are un­der no il­lu­sions as to how good they both are and how dif­fi­cult the matches will be for us, but we have to go into the games with real be­lief,” said Hughes.

“Not many peo­ple are think­ing we have a chance of gain­ing pos­i­tive re­sults but that cer­tainly isn’t the case within our camp.

“Of course they have play­ers who can hurt us, but we have play­ers who can hurt them too.

“We went to Liver­pool last year and beat them and we also got our first point at (Chelsea’s) Stam­ford Bridge in the Premier League so we know we can go to these places and be pos­i­tive.”

Wales mid­fielder Joe Allen will re­turn to An­field for the first time since be­ing let go by Klopp and mov­ing to Stoke in a $15.9 mil­lion deal in the off­sea­son.

“I don’t think he’s go­ing to be turn­ing up there with the in­ten­tion, ‘I’ ll show every­body they were wrong, I feel bit­ter about my time there and how I was al­lowed to leave’,” said Hughes, who is with­out sus­pended striker Marko Ar­nau­tovic.

“Clubs move play­ers. That’s foot­ball. He has noth­ing to prove.

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