In his Christmas message to Liverpool supporters around the world, manager Jürgen Klopp pointed out that, while the players would be spending some well deserved time with friends and family this Sunday, the team focus is very much on the upcoming match with Stoke City - Christmas or not, it was a normal training session at Melwood this morning, as “it is not allowed that we take our eyes off preparing for the game.”
As of Christmas morning, Liverpool sit second in the Premier League table, chasing a Chelsea side that is six points ahead and currently on an incandescent run of form. If they are to have any hope of catching Antonio Conte’s men, Liverpool will need the afterburners to fire very shortly, starting with the visit of Mark Hughes’ Stoke City on Tuesday. It’s will be a monumental challenge, but one that Klopp and company are up for.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, and as reported in the Guardian, Klopp expressed a certain amount of regret over injuries to key Liverpool players that have struck at inconvenient moments, while noting that Chelsea, though in admirable form and fully deserving of their lead, have not had to deal with similar absences of important role players.
“There is no perfect system in world football, but when they go on like this they are the deserved champions, nobody could have a doubt about this,” noted Klopp. “I am pretty sure that until now Chelsea are maybe the team that have had the most luck with injuries. We lost Phil and Daniel and Danny Ings in difficult moments when you really could use them. If it’s Hazard and Costa at Chelsea, is it the same afterwards?”
Liverpool supporters might be inclined to point out that, while Coutinho and Ings have been among those sidelined the longest, there have been other brief injury absences for the likes of Sadio Mané, Adam Lallana, and Joël Matip - increasingly invaluable players - at frustratingly awkward junctures in the schedule.
To be fair, it’s unheard of for a club to breeze through a season without injuries - even Chelsea have had to deal with temporary issues with Eden Hazard and David Luiz. Klopp’s observation is a reminder that despite the fact Liverpool have evolved to become a side less reliant on two or three difference makers, there are still a few Liverpool players whose absence from the squad is, though not crippling, certainly noticeable.
The club have been very deliberate in the transfer market under Klopp, but with Mané’s absence due to international duty looming, and with continued fitness concerns - serious or otherwise - around a few players during the congested holiday schedule, it’s somewhat likely Liverpool will flex their financial muscles in January. They will have to do so wisely in order to maximize their chances of catching up to Chelsea. As Klopp pointed out, Conte’s side will play Liverpool again in the new year, and Chelsea have yet to visit some of the other title contenders, but luck so far has been with the men from Stamford Bridge.