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Klopp backs Naby Keita despite first-half sub – as he mulls over changes vs. Aston Villa

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Jurgen Klopp has issued his support to Naby Keita despite hauling the Guinean off after 42 minutes at Real Madrid, though he is unlikely to start again at home to Aston Villa

Keita was the deserved fall guy as Klopp made an early intervention with his side 2-0 down in Spain on Tuesday night, replacing his No. 8 with three minutes to go before half-time.

In truth, the midfielder was a shock starter for the quarter-final first-leg tie, with Thiago‘s omission eliciting surprise from supporters ahead of kickoff, and the decision clearly did not pay off.

The circumstances of his withdrawal have led to suggestions that Keita’s time on Merseyside is coming to an end, but Klopp looked to calm the situation in his pre-match press conference.

“Naby showed [his ability], not sure to the full extent,” he said of the 26-year-old’s time with Liverpool so far.

“He played important games for us, great games for us, scored important goals for us, that’s all the truth.

“But you ask the question probably because of the early substitution in the last game. That was just a decision I made in that moment.

“We had to sort the game for us, and it was difficult to do that without making a change.

“After the game, yesterday we spoke about it and everything is OK. I explained the decision and he accepted it obviously, so now we carry on.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 3, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara (L) and Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is highly unlikely Keita keeps his place in the side for Saturday’s visit of Villa, with Thiago widely expected to return to the fold, possibly alongside Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum.

There could be more changes, too, with the manager insisting he was not yet sure who he would have available after the Reds’ efforts in Madrid.

“To be 100 percent honest, we don’t know yet,” he said, when asked about the latest team news.

“We played on Tuesday, flew back on Wednesday, trained yesterday, some players still felt the game.

“Injured is nobody from the game, but we have to see what we make of the information they give us today.

“So nobody is injured, but if we have to change something, you will see tomorrow.”

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