Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will not allow injuries to be an excuse as he seeks to turn around their dip in form.
The German has half-a-dozen senior players unavailable as he heads into a period of nine matches in 31 days as centre-back Martin Skrtel was the latest to be added to the list with a hamstring problem which is likely to sideline him for six weeks.
Striker Daniel Sturridge was effectively ruled out of the festive programme after Klopp said his recovery from a hamstring injury sustained at Newcastle at the start of the month would probably take at least a further 10 days, pushing back his previously anticipated return.
Midfielder James Milner also misses the Boxing Day visit of Premier League leaders Leicester – although goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and defender Dejan Lovren will return – as Klopp attempts to arrest a sequence of four matches without a win, the worst run of his short time in charge.
“Daniel is still doing his little pre-season, his intensive training, and he will do this for seven, eight, nine or 10 days and then we will see what happens then,” said the Reds boss.
“Martin is now missing and that is not perfect but it is not our place to complain about this.
“Martin is a tough guy and he usually recovers quick but we can’t put pressure on him.
“We have to wait a few weeks and that is bad news for us.”
It is also bad news defensively as Liverpool have shipped seven goals in their last three league matches, two apiece to Newcastle and West Brom and three at Watford – the first inside three minutes – last weekend.
Klopp is desperate for his side to become more resilient and but knows an ever-changing backline does not help.
“I would like to change centre-halves sometimes because of the big number of games but not because we have to only because we want to and that is what we couldn’t do in the last few weeks because one of the boys was injured,” he added.
“We lost Mama (Sakho) in a perfect situation, he came back (against Watford) and of course had problems because it was the worst game for all of us.
“Now Dejan has not a had a long break, he was in perfect shape before he left now we have to see what will happen.
“I would like to defend a 1-0 but not always strike back after a 0-1. We need to be concentrated from the first second.”
Saturday will be Liverpool’s first match at Anfield since Klopp’s well-publicised salute to the Kop when he encouraged all his players to hold hands and thank the fans for the support they showed in cheering the side on as they snatched a last-gasp draw against the Baggies.
He was surprised to find himself roundly criticised after that action was interpreted as celebrating a point at home to a mid-table side but the German’s motives were part of a strategy aimed at garnering greater affinity between players and fans.
“It is really interesting for me as it is the first time in my life I have lived in a foreign country and I thought I knew a lot about England because I’ve been here a few times and I enjoyed it always,” he said.
“We look similar but it seems in some ways we are really different.
“It was a decision in the moment, I never planned it and thought ‘If we made a draw against West Brom maybe we should’.
“I would like to be cooler but I am pretty emotional, you can see it in my face sometimes.
“Sometimes I laugh more than I should, sometimes I look more angry than I should and sometimes no one knows what my face should mean.
“I like to be close with the fans but it is not a thing from one side, I cannot say, ‘Come on, let’s do this together’ we have to build it up. That is how it should be in football.
“For me it is always a common fight, always together.”
Leicester‘s visit presents a significant challenge for Klopp’s side but he stressed that should not come as a shock to anyone now.
“I am not surprised any more, no one is surprised any more, this is really quality and it is deserved,” he said of the Foxes.
TIA CHRISTMAS 2015