When Liverpool stepped out on the pitch at Turf Moor on Monday afternoon, they did it without Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah. Both were deemed unfit to play against Burnley.
Salah had gone off limping with a tweaked ankle after scoring a brace against Leicester City on Saturday, and so his fitness was always in doubt. With the Burnley match coming only two days after the game against Leicester City, it made no sense for Klopp to risk his top scorer. In particular, memories of last year’s disastrous January collapse must surely be playing on Klopp’s mind as he makes his rotation decisions.
Philippe Coutinho, on the other hand, is either suffering from a minor thigh issue or “suffering” from a “minor thigh issue” with an eye towards another battle of wills over a potential transfer to Barcelona. It seems unlikely that the club would sanction a mid-season move for one of their best players just as they look to cement their top four spot and make a deep Champions League run. But with memories of Coutinho’s Barca back ache over the summer fresh in everyone’s mind, the fact that he has another injury as the January window opens feels awfully convenient.
Either way, Salah and Coutinho are both doubts for Friday’s derby match. About his two stars, Klopp said after Liverpool’s victory, “Phil are Mo are injured, not massively but enough for today [to be] no chance. And [they are] a doubt, at least a doubt, for Everton.”
Salah was always likely to miss out or start the game from the bench. He and Sadio Mané will be making the 7,000 mile trip to Ghana for the African Player of the Year award ceremony, for which they’ve both made the shortlist. They’re set to take a private plane back to Merseyside on Thursday, to be ready for the game on Friday.
Salah is the favorite to take home the award, so it appears he’ll have the freedom to celebrate his victory without a concern about playing for Liverpool a day later.
Klopp has taken advantage of his expanded team options to heavily rotate his squad during the festive period. In addition to Salah and Coutinho, the fit Roberto Firmino was also left out of the starting XI who took on Burnley, so he should be ready for the derby. Even without Salah and Coutinho and Henderson, Klopp still has a strong squad to choose from.
Through the beauty of the festive period, we’ll find out soon what team Klopp plans to field for the big game.