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The international break is a tremendous nuisance to club managers and fans alike, but Liverpool have actually been dealt a slice of luck in the timing of this particular one.
And that’s because most of Jurgen Klopp’s best players, including arguably his three very best, will stay at Melwood with him during the fortnight – honing their skills, learning his tactics and gaining full fitness.
Coutinho, for some bizarre reason, has been left out of Dunga’s Brazil squad – with ageing MLS playmaker Kaka preferred. This avoids him the gruelling trip to South America, and two matches against Argentina and Peru. While it’s personally disappointing for our no.10 to miss out on his country’s key qualifiers – it’s very helpful to Liverpool. We need him fit and replicating the form he showed at Stamford Bridge last weekend.
Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson have not played for Klopp yet because of injuries, so were obviously not in contention for Roy Hodgson’s England squad. However, both are back on the training field. According to reports, they’ll be ready for the Manchester City match on November 21 – so the break means they’re actually missing less Liverpool matches and will have two weeks working closely with the new boss.
Our chances of success this season will be greatly helped if these three can find form and fitness. They’re the only real stars of our 2013/14 title charge left at the club. (You can’t count Simon Mignolet and the defence as stars of that campaign.)
What’s more Lucas (again, for a reason we do not understand) doesn’t get in Brazil’s squad, and Roberto Firmino, a regular call-up recently, was left out due to his back injury – despite being fully fit now. Sad news for the players, but great for Liverpool. Like Coutinho, they’ll stay at Melwood preparing for the City clash, instead of battling Argentina in Buenos Aires (November 13) and Peru in Rio (November 18).
Due to their strength in depth, our swashbuckling left-back Alberto Moreno hasn’t played Spain since 2014 – and hasn’t been called up for their friendlies either.
Belgium have selected Christian Benteke despite his recent problems, but Divock Origi is playing with the Under-21s this time around.
Joao Teixeira doesn’t make the Portugal squad yet obviously, while Danny Ings, Jon Flanagan and Joe Gomez remain long-term absentees.
So while the injuries we’ve picked up this term have been very detrimental, it will enable our best players proper time on the training field with the new manager. By proper time, we’re referring to time without a match on the horizon – time when ideas can be conveyed and tactics can be delved into and explained.
Following the Crystal Palace match, Klopp will have two weeks with Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, Lucas and Alberto Moreno. All are now healthy enough to train. All are considered key first-team players.
Let’s hope Klopp and his coaching staff can maximise this good fortune. It’s very rare that a top team isn’t left empty after the international call-ups, but we’ve got lucky. (Providing nobody picks up another injury of course!)