Jurgen Klopp’s team selection for Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Manchester City could be burdened by an extended injury absence for Emre Can.
The midfielder was substituted early on in Liverpool’s recent 5-0 win over Watford in the Premier League, leaving the field clutching his back in visible discomfort.
Can has since missed Germany’s friendlies against Spain and Brazil as well as Saturday’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, with time running out in his battle to be fit for the Reds’ quarter-final.
The 23-year-old failed to fulfil expectations that he would return to first team training over the Easter weekend, according to the Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce.
Losing Can would be an early blow ahead of arguably Liverpool’s biggest game of the season so far, with his vigour and athleticism having posed as useful traits in combating City’s equally explosive attacking approach.
Can was instrumental in January’s 4-3 win over the Premier League champions-elect, setting the tone with the aggression in his pressing and tackling as the Reds went toe-to-toe with Pep Guardiola’s men.
His box-to-box expertise would have been key in helping bypass a central midfield area from which City’s swift attacks so often stem from thanks to the industry of Fernandinho and the vision of both Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.
James Milner will consequently be in strong contention to retain his place in the starting lineup in aid of adding a similar energy and assertiveness.
Klopp is confronted with a slightly more challenging decision regarding Georgina Wijnaldum, who again struggled to have the desired impact at the weekend.
His sluggish contributions in possession were bettered almost immediately by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain following his second-half introduction, with the former Arsenal man’s cross finding Andrew Robertson, who would go on to assist Mohamed Salah’s winner.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has been the latest Klopp protege to rediscover his form and flourish in the German’s physically-demanding system.
He now looks a likely contender to slot into midfielder, having been another to star in January’s enthralling win at Anfield.