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Mané and Firmino “Not Unlikely” to Start Against Stoke City

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In his own way, Jürgen Klopp confirmed his two attacking stars will be back in the starting eleven.

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

When Jürgen Klopp doesn’t rotate, fans and pundits alike complain about tired legs, overworked players, and the increased chance of injury that leads to. When he does rotate, as on the weekend when he started the game against Chelsea with Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino on the bench, they still tend to complain.

With Liverpool in the midst of a stretch that sees them play two games a week for six straight weeks, though, resting players is necessary—and whatever eventual reason one decides to pin Saturday’s draw and Chelsea’s late equalising goal on, it didn’t happen because Mané and Firmino started the game on the bench.

“It made sense at this point in the season to use the strength of the squad,” Klopp noted at today’s pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s mid-week league tie against Stoke City, who currently sit in 15th, just three points clear of the relegation zone and with manager Mark Hughes starting to feel the pressure.

There had been some talk their move to the bench had been a result of the disappointing second half against Sevilla three days before the Chelsea match, but the manager insisted that it was only about rest, rotation, and ensuring his team had the legs to compete during a long and demanding stretch of the season.

And it would have worked out for Liverpool—should have worked out—were it not for a late, lucky equaliser while Liverpool struggled to introduce their own substitutes in response to Chelsea’s second half changes and increasing pressure. As manager, that may ultimately be on Klopp, but that’s another matter entirely.

They’ve had their game off, though, and will start tomorrow, with Klopp somewhat cheekily acknowledging that “it’s not completely unlikely” the two will be in his starting eleven against Stoke City in a “probably dark and windy” (but, as per current forecasts, not rainy) mid-week match.