Liverpool are set to play an astounding 60th match this season when they take on Chelsea Saturday in the FA Cup final.
A marathon season has put many miles on the legs of some of the most vital Reds, knocking Fabinho out of the run-in following a hamstring injury. It was his 47th appearance of the season in the 2-1 league win over Aston Villa.
Thankfully, Naby Keita, the natural choice to replace the Brazilian in midfield and join the likes of Jordan Henderson and Thiago on the team sheet on Saturday, appears to have survived the midweek battle in one piece and should be available for selection.
The Guinean was spotted in training on Thursday, dispelling fears after surviving a number of the sort of spirited tackles from Villa that have knocked him out of action in the past.
With Chelsea’s midfield will likely be missing one if it’s key cogs in Mateo Kovacic, Keita should have more freedom to provide attacking thrust with his ability to carry the ball deep into the offensive third and strike from distance.
Keita’s ability to slot in for the indispensable Fabinho is a testament to the work done to build one of football’s deepest squads that has allowed manager Jurgen Klopp to effectively rotate through a grueling campaign—touch wood—relatively unscathed and incredulously competing for four trophies deep into May.
The final, and everything there is still left to play for, will be a chance for the diminutive midfielder to play a key role on the business end of Liverpool’s relentless trophy chasing season and come good on the massive potential he had shown prior to his move to Anfield.
While the 27-year-old has managed four goals and three assists in his 36 outings this season in all competitions—the most appearances of his five seasons as a Red—he has had no goal involvements in England’s foremost cup competition to this point. Reds the world over will hope that changes on Saturday.