Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is reportedly drawing up Merseyside derby plans without the inclusion of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino.
Despite the game being 12 days away, the clash with Everton at Anfield on Saturday week is already posing Klopp a selection dilemma with Coutinho and Firmino not expected back on Merseyside until the early hours of Thursday morning – just two days before the match.
The 20,000 kilometre round trip, not to mention the small matter of World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay in Montevideo on Thursday before Paraguay in Sao Paulo – set for the early hours of Wednesday March 29 UK time – is bound to take its toll on the duo.
And the Liverpool Echo reports that Klopp is preparing three possible sides for the match with the Toffees – one featuring both players and two alternatives where either don’t make it.
Firmino and Coutinho aren’t Klopp’s only concerns, however. The Reds have 12 players away on international duty over the next week with Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne in England’s squad for Wednesday’s friendly away to Germany and the World Cup qualifier at home to Lithuania on Sunday.
Joe Gomez is with England Under-21s for their friendlies away to Germany and Denmark, while Trent Alexander-Arnold is with England Under-19s for their elite round qualifiers against Norway, Spain and Belarus.
Simon Mignolet and Divock Origi have gone away with Belgium for their World Cup qualifier at home to Greece on Saturday which is followed by a friendly against Russia in Sochi three days later.
Gini Wijnaldum, Emre Can, Ragnar Klavan and Sadio Mane are also in action for their countries over the coming days, though a small fillip for Klopp was provided by Mane, whose Senegal side face Nigeria at Barnet FC on Thursday before taking on the Ivory Coast in Paris on Monday.
With the remaining members of Liverpool’s squad embarking on a warm-weather break in Tenerife this week, minus Daniel Sturridge, it’s sure to be quiet at their Melwood training base this week.