Liverpool’s Boxing Day clash with Leeds has been postponed due to a lack of personnel for the visitors, which could have knock-on effects for the title contenders.
Fighting from 3-1 down to win 5-4 on penalties was the perfect tonic after a strange start to the night at Anfield, in a game that stuck out horribly in the fixture list.
Though it is rarely so in the Premier League, it was set up to be a comfortable afternoon for the Reds.
However, five new COVID-19 cases among the Leeds first-team players and staff, coupled with injury issues for the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Patrick Bamford and Pascal Struijk, has led to the postponement of the fixture.
It is claimed that Leeds do not have enough players to fulfil the requirements, which stipulate one goalkeeper and 13 outfielders as sufficient.
Though safety is paramount following a swift rise in cases due to the Omicron variant, for supporters, it sacrifices a Boxing Day tradition.
For Liverpool, meanwhile, it presents both good and bad news for the weeks ahead.
Bad news: Robbo out vs. Chelsea
The left-back was due to return for that all-important title clash, but now the onus is on Kostas Tsimikas to perform in his stead.
It is certainly not a nightmare situation, with Tsimikas proving himself a more-than-capable deputy for the Scot, but Robertson is arguably the world’s best left-back and prior to his red card at Tottenham was showcasing exactly why he is considered that.
Jurgen Klopp is now likely to call upon the services of 19-year-old Owen Beck as a regular squad member over Christmas, to ensure Tsimikas remains in peak shape throughout.
Good news: Van Dijk, Fabinho & Jones back next game
With the UK government cutting the mandatory isolation period after positive tests from 10 days to seven – provided lateral flow tests return negative and no symptoms are shown – the trio are due out of isolation on Christmas Eve.
For Jones, too, it gives a better opportunity to make up for lost time after a difficult two months out with an eye injury and then COVID-19.
The biggest issue, however, is when Leeds‘ trip to Anfield will be rescheduled for.
Potentially bad news: Another game during AFCON?
As it stands, the Premier League is set to take a winter break from January 24 to February 7, to allow players and staff much-needed downtime after the festive period.
But with the schedule even tighter due to the World Cup taking place midway through next season, there is every chance fixtures are pushed back to that free weekend of January 29/30 to ensure the calendar plays out.
If that is the case, that would not only deprive Klopp and his squad time to recharge, as intended, but would also see a clutch of key players unavailable for another game.
Their participation already rules Salah, Mane and Keita out of both legs of the League Cup semi-final against Arsenal, along with the FA Cup third-round tie against Shrewsbury and Premier League clashes with Brentford and Palace.
Add the Leeds game into that period, and the trio could be absent for another crucial game as Liverpool fight for silverware on four fronts.
On top of that, delays in the international calendar last season mean nations in CONMEBOL and AFC will play World Cup qualifiers during the Premier League‘s winter break.
Of course, Liverpool could make a similar argument to Leeds to avoid this issue, as they would be missing at least seven senior players, of which five are first-choice starters, during that period.
But things never seem to be straightforward when it comes to Klopp’s Reds, and all supporters can do now is keep faith and hope for the best.