Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana's imminent return will be "crucial" to his side's fortunes ahead of the dreaded Christmas period, according to former Reds midfielder Jason McAteer.

Lallana has not played at all this season after suffering a nasty thigh problem during pre-season but is believed to be nearing full fitness after flying to Qatar for treatment. Klopp said that the England international was close to making his return before the international break and suggested that he would be able to play some part against his former club Southampton if he managed to get through first-team training unscathed.

Lallana's return to the first-team reckoning will no doubt encourage Liverpool, who will be without first-choice right-back Nathaniel Clyne for another three months at least, and McAteer thinks the 29-year-old's versatility will be vital during what will be a hectic festive period for the Reds and the rest of the Premier League.

"It will feel like a new signing. Adam played a crucial part last year," McAteer told Liverpool's official website. "He is one who can offensively play in a number of positions, so it will be great to have him back, he will be raring to go and he will be fresh.

"He has plenty of ability, he's added goals to his repertoire as well so he will be a welcome return. He's a lovely player to watch on the eye and he offers a lot. Like I said before it's a crucial period.

"It's a crucial time to pick up points and not drop silly points. With the demands of football now you are playing three games a week and it becomes very stressful.

"To have someone like Lallana back who you can get a run of games out of is a massive boost for the club."

Lallana's likely inclusion in Liverpool's match-day squad will almost certainly be coupled with the return of Philippe Coutinho, who managed to come through Brazil's 0-0 draw with England at Wembley unscathed.

The 25-year-old played no part in Liverpool's last three matches before the international break due to an adductor muscle problem but managed to play for 70 minutes against the Three Lions and could well start against the Saints. Fellow attacker Sadio Mane may sit out of the clash against Mauricio Pellegrino's side after aggravating a hamstring problem while playing for Senegal.

Adam Lallana and Danny Ings
Lallana is one of Liverpool's most important players under Klopp. Getty Images