Derby week is here, y’all! While this fixture is always one to look forward to, I enter derby week with mixed feelings. For one, Liverpool and Everton are both in unusual positions. Liverpool are coming off of a massive defeat to Aston Villa, while their crosstown rivals are sitting at the top of the table. On top of that, not only are we scouring reports and training photos to see who has returned to training from injury, we also have to see who has recovered from the coronavirus.
Well, on that front, there is some decent news for Liverpool. Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara have both returned to training after their quarantine periods after contracting coronavirus, according to David Mattock of the Mirror.
Sadio Mane and Thiago will play in Merseyside derby after returning to training today, following their Covid-positive period of quarantine.— David Maddock (@MaddockMirror) October 12, 2020
Naby Keita in isolation as he awaits results of a second test, following an initial positive while on international duty.#LFC
Those two players should provide a significant boost for Liverpool. Diogo Jota did a solid job filling in for Mane, but he does not have the same psychic connection with his strike partners Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah just yet. Mane will likely slot back into his starting role.
It is a little more difficult to know if Thiago will feature from the off. Jurgen Klopp usually gives players time to bed in before featuring on a regular basis, especially in midfield. Thiago, however, is not just any player, but a world class player who can control and dictate the tempo of the game. Still, the Merseyside derby is usually about blood and thunder rather than a cultured affair, so the tried and true midfield of Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, and the recently returned Jordan Henderson may be preferred.
Xherdan Shaqiri was also cleared to play while on international duty with Switzerland after an initial positive test. He could find a place on the bench.
On the negative side, Naby Keita has tested positive for coronavirus, along with four other players from Guinea. Somehow, during a global pandemic, the decision to continue on with international breaks still happened. As usual, money reigns over the health of the players the game depends upon.