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Liverpool’s Lijnders on Dealing With Fixture Congestion and Rising Covid Cases

Jürgen Klopp’s assistant wants more recovery time for the sake of player health—and for doctors and scientists to be listened to when it comes to Covid-19.

Preston North End v Liverpool - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is sweeping through England, and even fully-vaccinated football clubs like Liverpool are feeling its effect with Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago, and Curtis Jones currently out due to Covid protocols after returning positive tests.

The quartet missed out on the weekend against Tottenham, and assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders says there’s no change to their status—and no additional names to add to the Covid absentee list—for Leicester in the League Cup.

“It’s still the same,” Lijnders said when asked about Covid cases at the club. “Virgil, Fabinho, Thiago, and Curtis as well are still at home and we will have to see how each one, if they get sick, what symptoms they have and we will not rush them back.”

Jürgen Klopp’s number two also responded to questions about how Liverpool’s manager and coaches feel about the league decision to go ahead with a full slate of holiday fixtures, including what for many will be a pair of games with just 48 hours recovery time, while almost every club is also missing players due to the ongoing pandemic.

“For me the experts are not the managers,” he explained. “The experts are the scientists and the doctors. The Premier League should be asking them, not CEOs and not the managers, they should ask them. Health should come before everything.

“In life you want a lot of things but when you’re sick you want just one thing, getting better. We are in this job to protect our players and our staff but not just our players and our staff also their family members and that’s why we try to cut the chain with our testing and how we do things in the training centre.

“We have to follow the guidelines of the doctors and the scientists. If there’s one common behaviour in this pandemic over the past year it’s that we’ve always acted too late, always, and that’s why we’ve gone from one crisis into another.”

Covid cases in England continue to spike, more than doubled from a month ago and 50 times higher than over the past summer, and there is again talk of potential lockdowns and of at least limiting fan attendance at football matches.

With that as the background, after Christmas the Reds are set to play Leeds United on Sunday the 26th before facing Leicester in the league on Tuesday the 28th. It’s a short turnaround that Lijnders says isn’t good for the players at the best of times—never mind times like these.

“Jürgen has made this point really clear,” he added. “We are in the position to try to protect our players so we think it’s absurd we have to play games within 48 hours because it’s a much higher risk of injury, the quality of game will not be as good, players will be more fatigued, and we won’t get the quality we want.

“I think it’s absurd. The teams that want to play in this kind of circumstance you’ll have to ask them but I think with the Covid situation it would have been good to have more time before the next game.”