Harvey Elliott and Naby Keita are available for Liverpool against Cardiff on Sunday but Thiago Alcantara may miss out again, according to manager Jurgen Klopp.
The Reds return to action following the winter break for most of the squad with an FA Cup fourth-round clash at Anfield. Liverpool eased past Shrewsbury to progress last month.
That match came amid Africa Cup of Nations duty for chief goalscorers Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. But Liverpool have also got through the past month – including the Carabao Cup semi-finals – without other namely talents.
Keita has also been away at AFCON, while Thiago has had a hip injury since December.
Speaking in a press conference on Friday, Klopp revealed that Thiago had returned to training, only to fall ill. As such, he remains a doubt.
“Thiago trained with us. Unfortunately, when COVID is around you always think it is the only infection or virus you can get, but he had a little chest infection so he had to step a little bit aside again,” the manager said.
“That’s not perfect, of course, but I expect him to be in team training today again so we will see. The injury is completely fine, he looked really good in training, but that’s how sometimes things are.”
Klopp is nevertheless excited about the return of Elliott. The 18-year-old had impressed in Premier League action and had been a regular starter before his nasty ankle injury in September.
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“We have really to thank Andrea Schlumberger for that [Elliott’s recovery],” Klopp said. “He is our head of rehab here and was very in it, he was very patient. But Harvey was the perfect client, if you want. He did pretty much everything we told him without a question why or whatever.
“He is in a good place and is in full team training now, but we have to see what is right for him – is it right to start [or] is it right to come on? But he will be in the squad definitely for the Cardiff game and from there we go.
“Most of the things look completely natural, absolutely, really quick after a long, long period without proper team training. When you saw him the first time, you thought immediately, ‘Maybe we take him with us’ but it obviously made no sense.
“He has now to go step by step to get back to his best, but he is close. Very close.”
Divock Origi is also back in team training after his injury but will not make the squad against Cardiff.
Klopp on Salah, Mane watch
Liverpool will still be without Salah and Mane, though, who have made it to the AFCON final with Egypt and Senegal, respectively.
“It’s a great achievement for both,” Klopp said. “Naby played an exceptional tournament as well. It will be exciting, it’s not so easy because one will be definitely really happy afterwards and the other one much less so.
“Both have a good chance to do something really successful.”
As for when Salah and Mane could return, Klopp hinted that both may feature in next Thursday’s Premier League clash with Leicester.
“One thing they have is rhythm, they played obviously quite a few games and we will see. I have to speak to them,” the manager added.
Elsewhere in his press conference, Klopp spoke of a potential debut timeline for new signing Luis Diaz.