When Philippe Coutinho pulled up in the 13th minute, unable to continue after having suffered a dead leg in a seemingly innocuous collision minutes earlier, it meant an earlier—and longer—than expected return to action for Adam Lallana.
Having missed nearly a month and a half with his own injury struggles, the plan had been to give Lallana just thirty minutes or so. Still, the midfielder wasn't complaining following the match, ending it a little tired but none the worse for wear.
"I had to come on and I felt I got into the game quite quickly," he noted following the 1-0 victory over Watford. "I didn't feel like I'd lost too much rhythm. I was a bit tired at the end, but I've had five or six weeks out of the game so that's only normal."
Despite the long layoff, Lallana was solid and energetic in a more advanced role than he has usually played this season, taking on the right-sided duties in Liverpool's attacking three. Now, though, he's hoping both he and Coutinho will be fit for Sunday.
"I didn't expect to come on so early but these things happen," he said. "You've got to be prepared mentally for anything. Phil was unlucky to get a knock, sometimes when you get these knees to the side of the quad you can't run them off.
"It's a massive blow for us. Hopefully we can get him fit for the weekend because he's such a big player for us. It's three games left for us now and I believe it's in our hands. We just need to focus on Southampton at the weekend."
The top four—and the top three, in fact, and with it automatic Champions League group stage qualification—is indeed in Liverpool's hands now, thanks to Manchester City and United both drawing before Liverpool played on Monday.
The two chasing sides still have a game in hand, but if Liverpool win out they can't be caught by United and can at best be drawn level with by City, while before Monday's victory Liverpool had the tiebreaker edge on the Citizens.
Liverpool are once again in the driver's seat for Champions League qualification with three games to go for them, and a successful return to action on Monday for Lallana will certainly bolster their chances for securing a place in next seaosn's competition.