Klopp had ruled Thiago “not really likely” to travel to St James’ Park after his recent return to training, but the Spaniard was revealed as part of the Reds’ matchday squad soon before kickoff.
It was a welcome boost for Liverpool after another injury blow to Joel Matip, particularly given the summer signing had only played 135 minutes prior due to a knee injury suffered in the Merseyside derby.
The 29-year-old contributed in both defence and attack, attempting and completing more passes than Mohamed Salah, including six out of six long balls, one of which played a part in the move that should have set up a winner for Sadio Mane.
It was a cameo similar to that seen on his debut against Chelsea, and the hope will be that Thiago is now able to build on this, perhaps even with a first start since October 17 when Liverpool head to Southampton on January 4.
For the midfielder, it was obviously a significant night, and taking to Twitter after the game, Thiago relished being “back on track” before stressing the need to “move on” from a frustrating draw:
Klopp’s words ahead of the game may have been a smokescreen, but it may simply have been how much he was impressed with his No. 6 in the limited training time he had since recovery that tempted him to test Thiago at St James’ Park.
The manager assessed Thiago‘s return in his post-match press conference, describing his first 12 minutes on the pitch as “brilliant,” before he “felt the intensity.”
“We signed Thiago, actually, because we thought he was a good player, so you can imagine we would like to have him in the team. That’s clear,” he told reporters.
“But what the other boys did in the time when he was not available was absolutely incredible; James Milner, for example, tonight played a super game in midfield, really.
“It’s good, he’s a super player. So I think from the 20 minutes, around 12 were brilliant and then he felt the intensity.
“But that’s normal, he trained exactly twice with the team. So yes, still some physical work to do, still some rhythm to get.
“Shaq is back [too], so that’s, by the way, the best news tonight: that the boys are back and, as far as I know in the moment, nobody got injured tonight, which is a very important thing.
“So that means we probably can go with the same squad to Southampton.”
That Liverpool should hopefully be able to head to St Mary’s with the same squad – with none of Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Diogo Jota or Kostas Tsimikas due to return any time soon – is a big boost for Klopp.
A second start for the club cannot be ruled out, and the prospect of seeing Thiago in more regular action is one of the most exciting aspects of 2021 for Liverpool.