He’s coming back. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is nearly done with his year-long absence from the pitch. Ox left Liverpool’s semi-final first leg at Anfield last season with multiple ligament and tendon damage to his knee and hamstring after a challenge with an AS Roma player. The England international had to sit out his side’s subsequent advancement in the second leg in Rome as well as their performance in the Champions League final.
The player recently returned to action with a first half showing with Liverpool’s u23 team. Ox was substituted just before half-time, feeling something in his hamstring, but the vibe coming out of Melwood is that the ex-Arsenal man is in good shape and expected to return to first-team selection status very soon.
“Ox will be 100% fit after the International break,” said Klopp in his pre-Fulham press conference.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s reintroduction to the Premier League is likely to begin with a series of super sub opportunities. Because, while he’s capable of running and twisting at speed, Ox could still need extra time to build up his match fitness.
It’s great news for Liverpool heading into the twilight hours of the season. The title race is in full swing and the Champions League trophy feels within reach. Having a midfield option with the dynamism of Oxlade-Chamberlain could prove crucial to Klopp during the run-in.
Jordan Henderson is also on a post-international break return schedule after injuring his ankle in the victory at Bayern Munich.
“With Hendo we don’t know,” Klopp said. “It’s serious enough to rule him out for the weekend.
“The international break will hopefully be long enough to bring him back.
“It is to do with his ankle. It’s the best it can be but still not good enough, it’s okay though.”
And Naby Keita is still being assessed following a minor injury that kept the Guinean out of the Bayern Munich match.
“We have to see if Naby can train today,” said Klopp. “He’ll come in later for checks, and it was positive, so hopefully it stays positive when he goes outside.”
Klopp still has Gini Wijnaldum, Fabinho, James Milner, Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri to make up his midfield numbers against Fulham. I’d be surprised if Milner gets a spot on the team sheet on Sunday but if the manager is concerned about losing control of the midfield at Craven Cottage Shaqiri is probably not the option you want to go with.
Still, and with all due respect or whatever, Fulham have been terrible this season and maybe this match is prime time to release the power cube.