Liverpool play another six games over the next three weeks, and Jurgen Klopp‘s rotational approach could soon see some of his most important players rested.
The Reds are in the midst of a busy winter run that began with an emphatic 3-0 win at Watford and most recently saw them thrash Man United at Anfield, bringing Jose Mourinho’s reign to an end with a 3-1 victory.
In seven games including that trip to Vicarage Road, Klopp’s side have won six and lost one, scoring 16 and conceding just four, keeping four clean sheets.
This could prove tough as the fixtures keep rolling, with Liverpool’s next week-long break between games coming after the away clash with Brighton on January 12.
Klopp has employed rotation whenever possible of late, particularly in midfield due to a wealth of options at his disposal, but the 3-1 win at Burnley in December 5 highlighted the difficulty in leaving out his star forwards.
And according to Football365, Liverpool have the most outfielders to play 2,000 minutes or more for club and country this season (five):
Liverpool’s Marathon Men, 2018/19
Fortunately their closest challengers, City, have the second-most with four—Aymeric Laporte (2,068), Bernardo Silva (2,032), Fernandinho (2,029) and Kyle Walker (2,020)—but their totals are all significantly lower.
No other side in the English top flight has more than two players to have clocked over 2,000 minutes so far, with Klopp’s reliance on his first-choice centre-back and left-back, his most malleable midfielder and two wide forwards clear.
But it is highly likely he will be required to rest those five players at some stage over the coming weeks.
The biggest issue comes with Van Dijk, as in the wake of long-term injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip he is the only constant at centre-back, with Dejan Lovren currently filling the void as his partner.
Alberto Moreno could feasibly come in to replace Robertson against Wolves and/or Newcastle, with Wijnaldum omitted for those games too as Fabinho, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Adam Lallana remain alternatives.
In attack, it seems likely that Daniel Sturridge will be given another opportunity in the near future, while Xherdan Shaqiri is near-guaranteed to start at Wolves after coming off the bench to score two against United on Sunday.
It is telling that 12 Premier League clubs don’t have any players to break the 2,000-minute mark yet—including Wolves, who head into Friday’s game seventh in the table.
The hope is that Klopp’s new, more conservative approach on the pitch is designed to preserve fitness despite this remarkable statistic, as all five of his marathon men are essential.