Liverpool have been given a huge boost ahead of their showdown with title rivals Manchester United after a key defender returned to training.
The champions were knocked off top spot in midweek following United’s 1-0 win at Burnley. That put the Red Devils three points ahead of them after 17 games.
However, Jurgen Klopp’s side will have the chance to overtake them again when they meet this weekend. The Reds host their old adversaries at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
But Liverpool will need to put an end to their poor run of league form if they are to return to the summit. They are winless in three games and have failed to score in their last two Premier League outings.
Part of their struggles has been put down to the reshuffles they have been forced into due to injuries- particularly at the back.
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long term absentees, while Joel Matip was also unavailable for his side’s last league match at Southampton. That meant midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson were deployed in central defence.
Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips, both of whom debuted this season, have also featured at the back recently.
A timely return
But they could welcome back an experienced option this week after Matip took part in team training on Friday.
The 29-year-old picked up a groin injury in the 1-1 draw with West Brom on 27th December. He missed the following three games in all competitions as a result.
Matip has been expected to be sidelined for the game with United for much of this week too. On Wednesday, it was reported that he was looking increasingly unlikely to take part.
But he could now be in contention having trained alongside his teammates at Kirkby.
Klopp usually insists players returning from injury complete at least two full sessions before they are considered for selection. Therefore, should the ex-Schalke man come through training on Saturday with no complaints, he could be involved after all.
But throwing Matip back in to action in a game of Sunday’s magnitude, particularly after so little preparation, could be a risk.
But this latest developments is welcome news for Liverpool and leaves Klopp with a big decision to make.