BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: Liverpool’s Naby Keita looks dejected during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Naby Keita back “soon” but not against Villa, where “fresh legs” are needed

Naby Keita will not feature at Aston Villa in the FA Cup clash, with Jurgen Klopp hinting at injecting fresh legs into his side during what remains an intense schedule.

Liverpool are back on the road once more for the third round of the FA Cup on Friday evening, a matchup that comes four days on from the defeat at Southampton and nine days before they host Man United.

It provides a rare chance to make sweeping changes to the team and provide a host of senior faces with a rare extended break in what is a relentless season which has been compounded by injury.

The Reds will remain with Joel Matip, Kostas Tsimikas and Diogo Jota, in addition to the long-term absentees, as well as Keita who the boss revealed will be “back soon, but not for the Villa game.”

The midfielder has missed the last three games with an unspecified muscle injury and while he is one of a number of players needing games to find some rhythm, he will not be ready for Friday.

The battle of rhythm is one a number of players returning from injury face but cannot always be provided with the chance to rectify when valuable points are constantly on the line.

The FA Cup, however, does provide a chance to start the process and to inject much-needed fresh legs into a side which has looked on their feet before a valuable training week.

“It’s difficult, the problem is at times when a lot of players are injured, which we are in, players come back and then you try to get rhythm,” the boss told reporters.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 4, 2021: Liverpool's xxxx during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

“But at the same time, you have to win football games so it’s not that easy.

“We need to find the balance to field a team which we didn’t change too much but bringing in fresh legs again.

“The rhythm is a different issue we cannot really sort, we have to sort that step by step but we cannot do that in one game and use the FA Cup to give players rhythm.

“The opponent is just too strong for that, but after the Villa game, I think we have eight days between the two games – between Villa and United.

“That’s a long training week where we can really do a lot of stuff in 11 versus 11 situations – which will help the players a lot, especially the players who have been out for a while.

“After that, we will be in a different place.”

It does hint that likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Neco Williams, Nat Phillips, Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi and even Thiago could feature prominently at Villa Park, with a sprinkle of regular faces.

There is a clear respect for the opposition but it does represent an opportunity to inject minutes into those on the fringes and ensure regular members of the XI are primed for a rare full training block prior to Man United‘s visit.