Walking wounded hampering Reds’ chase of Chelsea
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,
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.