Liverpool’s squad and schedule have been thrown into disarray following a “severe outbreak” of COVID-19 but six senior players could be back in the mix against Shrewsbury.
The undisclosed cases make it so there is no guarantee that the FA Cup tie will still go ahead after the Reds’ training ground was closed and the Arsenal fixture postponed.
But recovery from the virus and the end of the isolation period for a handful of first-team members could boost Liverpool’s numbers enough to see them able to fulfil the criteria to play on Sunday.
It will depend on two negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart and members of the club’s academy to then fill the remaining gaps.
Who are the 6 senior players who should be available?
Firstly, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones.
The trio only recently contracted and recovered from COVID-19 – were free to return from December 24 – meaning the reinfection window will be too soon for the current outbreak.
Thiago would have come under similar consideration – returned from Covid on December 26 – but is out with a hip injury that Jurgen Klopp conceded “we have to be a little bit patient” with.
There is then Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip, who are all currently in isolation.
Two successive negative lateral flow tests will see the Brazilian duo free to leave isolation on Thursday and Matip on Friday.
There will then be the question of their fitness but Liverpool may have little choice but to rush them back should the game receive a green light.
How about Klopp and co?
It would create a spine that would be significantly stronger than what would have been first planned for the tie that was sandwiched between the League Cup semi-final with Arsenal.
The unnamed cases do make it impossible to know how deep Covid runs into the first team but it is highly likely the team would need to be propped up by the club’s academy, with those in the under-18s and under-23s ranks to come under consideration, negative tests permitting.
The U18s’ FA Youth Cup tie on Friday with Burnley was postponed, likely to ease personnel concerns ahead of Sunday but it may not be Klopp who oversees the team.
The manager needs to return two negative tests on his sixth and seventh days of isolation, but having been said to have shown minor symptoms, Klopp’s return may be delayed beyond Shrewsbury’s scheduled visit.
With Pep Lijnders also in isolation, it could be that Peter Krawietz or Barry Lewtas are asked to take the helm.