Jurgen Klopp is hopeful centre-back Joel Matip will return to action before the new year, despite reports saying he will be sidelined for a month.
Matip missed the Reds’ 5-1 win at Brighton on Saturday, leaving Klopp to field a makeshift back three of Emre Can, Dejan Lovren and Georginio Wijnaldum.
The trio performed admirably in the absence of Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Joe Gomez, with the latter duo missing through illness, but the setup was far from ideal.
It is likely that both Klavan and Gomez will be passed fit to return for Liverpool’s all-important Champions League group decider at home to Spartak Moscow on Wednesday night.
And addressing Matip’s injury, Klopp cast an optimistic view.
Matip’s initial return date was expected to have been in the new year, but Klopp believes he may be able to return later this month.
“He has hurt his muscle. I don’t know how long exactly he’ll be out, but he’s definitely not playing Wednesday,” he told reporters.
“A month? No, I don’t think so. But as always, it’s possible. We have to wait. But it’s possible that it will be shorter. We will see.”
It must be noted that Klopp is often overly optimistic when it comes to injuries, as notably seen with Jordan Henderson‘s foot problems last season.
The captain was initially claimed to have suffered a bruise in February, and after being ruled out of two consecutive games, Klopp responded to questions on its severity by asking: “What is long term?”
Henderson was ultimately sidelined for the rest of the season, returning for pre-season training after a five-month layoff.
The likes of Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Ings have also been subject of similarly hopeful diagnoses from the manager.
It is clearly a difficult balancing act to play, but Klopp’s track record suggests Matip will likely remain out of action for the rest of the year.
Fortunately, with Klavan and Gomez ill, not injured, one should come into the fold to partner Lovren at Anfield in midweek.
Clyne is Liverpool’s only other major absentee, with the right-back not expected back until February after undergoing surgery on a long-term back injury.