5 Liverpool players who benefit most from a later end to the season

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The unexpected extension to the Premier League season has come at a heavy cost for clubs, just as the pandemic in general has for the wider world. But in every disappointment comes an opportunity, somewhere along the line.

For Liverpool’s squad, there are a handful for whom the later finish to the 2019/20 season may be of benefit, in terms of their game time and contribution to the cause.

Jurgen Klopp‘s group is relatively small, but has proven the match of Europe’s finest over the last couple of years—and they have been far and away the Premier League‘s finest this campaign.

Even so, a few weeks of recovery and recuperation time has come at a good time for several, even if the circumstances of the delay would rather have been avoided.

Here are five players that will feel the benefit of the later finish than usual.

 

Alisson

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, December 26, 2019: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker celebrates his side's first goal during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s first postponed game was the Merseyside derby; Alisson was injured at the time and were he to have missed it as was expected, he would have failed to play in any of the three matches against Everton this season, two through injury and one suspended.

The fact he has only played 10 games more than second-choice Adrian shows the disrupted nature of the Brazilian’s season, though his quality has quickly been on show after returning.

While he might have missed a handful of matches back in March if games had continued, he has been training at home like the rest of the squad.

Aside from some fine-tuning once the coaches and physios are back at Melwood, the assumption must be that Ali will be ready to return whenever matches do.

He’ll be a big boost for the Reds and will hopefully play the rest of the games rather than watching on from afar.

 

Xherdan Shaqiri

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 4, 2019: Liverpools Xherdan Shaqiri during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 234th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri has seen his season decimated by injury.

In truth, we’ve no idea whether he’ll be ready to return or not, as there has never been any definitive statement on how long he needs or what the exact issue is.

Troublesome (and massive) calf muscles seem to be at the root of the problem, but 256 minutes on the pitch says it all: we haven’t had anywhere near enough of him this year.

If he’s departing in the summer as expected, his time at Anfield might have ended on a bit of an anonymous note; the extra time afforded to him to recover might grant him the chance to show his worth.

Despite being a squad player, he has contributed at key moments in his two years at the club and it would be great to give him another opportunity or two to show what he’s capable of.

 

Naby Keita

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 7, 2019: Liverpool's Naby Keita during the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at the Vitality Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Naby Keita is another who hasn’t featured as much as he’d like, though in his case it’s more due to constant, niggling problems rather than a single ongoing complaint.

Fourth-choice centre-back Dejan Lovren, sub ‘keeper Adrian and backup striker Divock Origi have all surpassed the 1,000-minute mark in all competitions this season, but Keita is still waiting to reach that milestone.

And that’s despite Klopp giving him chances to start every time he regains fitness.

He had missed the last four before matches were postponed and hopefully a complete absence of intense training sessions and matches has allowed our No. 8 to fully rest up and refresh himself—now it’ll be about making sure he is resilient enough when action gets back underway.

 

Takumi Minamino

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 1, 2020: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Aside from injuries, there are other considerations, starting with Takumi Minamino.

Although the less-than-ideal circumstances mean he hasn’t been with or around his team-mates, the additional time to perhaps settle into a new home, learn the language and adjust in general terms to a new life will have been of benefit.

Once he gets back on the training pitch he should be raring to kick-start his Anfield career after not really having too many chances yet.

Intensity and energy levels should be rather levelled out across the squad, so he could get more of a clean slate in terms of form and trust if he shows the tactical aptitude necessary.

A few starts could do his confidence the world of good, too.

 

Harvey Elliott or Curtis Jones

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 7, 2019: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott (L) and Curtis Jones during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at the Vitality Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There are all different ways that players need to progress and improve and simply growing up and maturing is part of that.

One of the youngsters could see their game time increase if they have impressed Klopp and his coaching staff in this uncertain period with their professionalism, showing they are ready to handle whatever is thrown their way.

Again, training ground readiness and aptitude will determine getting picked more than anything else, but we all know how much Klopp values mental strength and preparedness.

Both Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones will be looking at the possibility that the Reds don’t delve too deeply into the transfer market and knowing they could be fast-tracked into becoming first-team regulars, and that might well start at the back end of 2019/20.

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