Liverpool staff have been “raving about” Naby Keita‘s performances in training, with the Guinean poised for more minutes on the campaign’s resumption from Sunday.
Keita has made 18 appearances so far this season, totalling 950 minutes on the pitch for an average of just 52.8 per outing.
There have been some bright moments, including his performances against Bournemouth, Salzburg and Monterrey in December, but on the whole, it has been another campaign of false dawns for the No. 8.
That could hopefully turn as the season gets back underway on Sunday with the Merseyside derby, with Liverpool in a position to clinch the title in the next two games.
Six more points are required and 27 are up for grabs before the campaign’s end, with five substitutes permitted in each game as the bench numbers are increased from seven to nine.
Though he will be hoping for a starting role, this will boost Keita’s chances of further game time regardless, and he appears to be in a strong position to achieve that.
According to The Athletic‘s James Pearce, Jurgen Klopp‘s staff have been “raving about” Keita since the return to training last month, with the 25-year-old having scored in an inter-squad friendly and in one against Blackburn.
Pearce described it as being a “crunch period” for Keita, though there is no indication that “Klopp’s patience is running out” as has been suggested in some tabloids.
“[Klopp] believes that Keita will have a bigger role to play next season,” he continued, which could begin on Sunday.
Though the manager is unlikely to experiment too heavily until the title is won, and Liverpool will remain strong after that fact nonetheless, Keita is a viable option in the first-choice lineup.
Keita is not the only player who could benefit in these final nine games of the season, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi also likely to profit from a rotational approach.
After having not played for three months, Liverpool are due to play two games within four days to restart their season, and it is likely changes are made between the clashes with Everton and Crystal Palace.
The key caveat for Keita is that he remains injury-free, as fitness issues have blighted his progress since joining from RB Leipzig.
If he is able to stay fit, there is clearly belief that the midfielder can make a lasting impact at Liverpool.