Liverpool are fortunate that Mamadou Sakho returns just when Dejan Lovren becomes unavailable through injury. While Lovren has shown improvements under Jürgen Klopp, Sakho is the club's best centre back. Martin Škrtel's excellent fitness record means that he remains a constant part of the defence with Kolo Touré as experienced support in what should be the Ivorian's last season on Merseyside.
Touré has yet to start a league game this campaign, which underlines the importance of Sakho's timely return. Lovren shouldn't be out for more than another week or two, but Watford FC—attractive enough for AS Roma's Juan Iturbe—have two lively and dangerous attackers in Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. With all due respect to our Kolo, Sunday will be a job for first-choice defenders.
Klopp was confident that Mamadou Sakho could help the team even after six weeks out through injury. The 48-year-old's customary positivity and common sense was on display when discussing the player's impending reintroduction to competitive football, but will the France international truly be ready for a tough test on Sunday?
Mamadou has trained completely normal. It is a good situation. He started normal training last week and now he has completed this week. If it stays like this he will be ready. Now he’s had many weeks out, everything is different, but when we all work together as a team it is easier for the centre-halves to play a normal game. We want Mamadou’s quality and his strength but the team has to help him too.
Games against Watford and Leicester City will be far tougher than many thought when the fixtures were released. Sakho may not be fit enough to play all the games in the festive period, but even after some time out injured, his intelligent and composed approach will help the defence. Both Watford and Leicester are above the Reds in the table, and Klopp's reference to teamwork will be needed to find victory over the next two games.
Only one of Liverpool's next six fixtures are at home in a period where Liverpool's credentials on the road will be tested. Caged lion set free, Liverpool soldier ready for action, and returning defensive stalwart. Welcome back Mamadou Sakho.