The Liverpool midfield took a hit when Emre Can suffered a back injury last month. The German has missed three matches so far, including the crucial Champions League quarter-final games against Manchester City. Jürgen Klopp has enough players at his disposal to field a solid midfield three without Can but beyond Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain there are not many first-tier midfield options on the bench to rotate in.
Adam Lallana remains out with questionable odds of returning before May. And hopes for Emre Can’s speedy recovery were briefly dashed this week when Klopp pronounced that Can’s likelihood for a comeback were slim. But look what a little Champions League magic can do to for the prospects of a player on the mend.
“When I first heard about it, it was kind of, yeah, it will be difficult [for Can] to play again,” said Klopp.
“But the season we were talking about was [ending] mid-May. Now we have the chance that it’s a little bit longer. Since then Emre developed really well.
“He’s in good hands in the moment. He’s not overly happy about the situation. But he’s quite positive that it goes quicker than imagined.
“I know I said in the German interview, they asked me, ‘Is his season over?,’ and in that moment it was like, yeah, probably. But it’s not that sure any more to be honest. That’s good news but he will not be ready for Bournemouth.”
Emre’s absence, though, isn’t without it’s silver lining for Danny Ings. Klopp has started to use Ings in the squad with a view towards spelling Mohamed Salah when necessary. That plan should free up Chamberlain to be used exclusively in the midfield instead of being pushed out wide.
Wijnaldum put in a robust performance against City, playing in Henderson’s more defensive position and should be an option for the manager anywhere in center of the pitch now. And James Milner will probably keep astounding everyone by being a great footballer despite being so boring.
Liverpool’s defense is already short of cover with Joe Gomez still out of training and Joël Matip definitely ruled out for the season. A return from one of Can or Lallana over the next couple of weeks would be a stellar boost to the club’s mission for top four and Champions League glory.