Philippe Coutinho and captain Jordan Henderson could make their full return to the Liverpool first team in time to face Manchester United after coming through training on the eve of the game – but manager Jurgen Klopp is unable to confirm they will feature at Old Trafford. Coutinho played 29 minutes from the bench on his first appearance for over six weeks in the English Football League Cup defeat to Southampton, while Henderson has not played in 2016 due to a heel injury.
Klopp had been hopeful of calling on both players, as well as defender Joel Matip for the weekend clash and the news that all three have come through training unscathed is a major boost for the Reds just 48 hours before the game. The Merseysiders will therefore only be without three first team players due to injury, while Sadio Mane is unavailable due to his participation in the Africa Cup of Nations.
"They all were in training yesterday, so [we have] to wait on how they reacted to the training yesterday then we have to make decisions," said Klopp, according to the Liverpool official website. "The last game was only two days ago and so we have to wait for the reaction of those players too and then we make a line-up. But of course they are much closer than they were before any other game in the last few weeks so that's good."
"Quality. When Phil is not playing, of course you miss his creativity and finishing and all that stuff. He's a very important player for us, it's the same as Hendo in a different role. When they are not available then I actually don't think too much about them because you have to find other solutions. That's what we did pretty good in the past few weeks, especially when we had to play without Phil.
"Of course it needed a little time adapt to the new situation because he has a specific kind of play in how he interprets his role as an offensive midfielder, defending most of the time on the left side. That's how it is. But, [it's] good that they are back, if they are back."
The loss of Mane accentuates Liverpool's current plight which has seen them fail to win any of their first three games of 2017. Draws with Southampton in the Premier League and Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup was followed by a dismal display in defeat to Southampton in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final at St Mary's.
United in stark contrast have won their last nine games in all competitions to go within five points of Liverpool in the table. Nevertheless, Klopp says his team will be prepared for the challenge posed by the 19-time league champions and has urged them to produce a vastly improve display from their last outing on the south coast.
"We have to go there and line up and be ready for all the challenges in the game,2 he added. "That is important. We try everything we need to make the difference. Of course, we are excited about the opportunity to go there and play our best. Both teams are on a good run long term, and United have less injury problems.
"You can feel good before the game. We realise before the game that we are Liverpool and we need to show this. Everyone who wants to see a real fight for game, then yes, watch it. It will be 100% from our side."