Football

Klopp names Liverpool’s most consistent player as Fabinho prepares for Reds return against Chelsea

The Reds boss believes Gini Wijnaldum has been the standout performer in a difficult campaign for the Premier League champions

Jurgen Klopp believes Gini Wijnaldum has been Liverpool’s most consistent player during a difficult campaign for the reigning Premier League champions.

In a season blighted by injury problems, the Dutchman has been one of the few constants for the Reds.

The 30-year-old has featured in all 26 of Liverpool’s league fixtures, and only Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah have made as many appearances (36) in all competitions. Wijnaldum will continue in midfield on Thursday, as Klopp’s men welcome Chelsea to Anfield for a crucial top-four clash.

What’s been said?

Asked about the prospect of Fabinho, who is fit again after a muscle problem, returning to midfield having played predominantly as a centre-back so far this season, Klopp told reporters: “Both is possible! That is good, it gives us options. But if we can find a way to bring Fab back in midfield that would be in some games quite helpful.

“The most consistent player probably this season is Gini Wijnaldum [knocks on wood], and long may it continue. He played the number six, all the positions, but with Fab in the number six in some games would be absolutely helpful.

“But both things are really intense, centre-half or number six. In the past we had to bring players almost immediately because another player left the pitch injured in the game before. Now we don’t have to do that for the first time.

“But there are still a lot of games to play, so we will see. Is Fab ready to start or is he only ready for the bench? Then which position? These decisions are still to make and if I would have made them already, I wouldn’t tell you exactly what the decision is! So let’s see.”

Liverpool’s other team news

Klopp also offered an update on the availability of Alisson, who missed the win at Sheffield United for personal reasons following the tragic loss of his father, Jose, last week. 

And he spoke about Diogo Jota, who was pictured training at Kirkby on Tuesday after missing out at Bramall Lane due to illness.

“Ali trained now the full week and, yes, we should expect that he is able to return,” Klopp said.

“Diogo had this little stomach problem and he trained yesterday only a little bit; he was only out there for the warming up and the rondos and then had a little run. I got the message this morning that he feels better again, so we will see what we can do with that.

“As I said, before he looked exceptionally well, but unfortunately he got ill overnight, so now we have to see how big the steps are he can make towards the team again.” 

How important is the Chelsea game?

Defeat for Liverpool would represent a sizeable blow to their hopes of securing Champions League qualification.

A win would take them, as it would Chelsea, above West Ham into fourth place, but a loss would leave them four points adrift of the Londoners, and under increased pressure from the sides around them, including Merseyside neighbours Everton.

“I think a week ago we were out, now we are around again so for us the challenge and the job is clear,” Klopp said. “We have to win games, as many as possible, to make it in the top four.

“But there are other teams, our neighbours, Tottenham, West Ham, Leicester and maybe [Manchester] United not really involved anymore, and City is already gone. For the neutrals it is exciting, for the Liverpool fans it is exciting, maybe not as we want, but we will give it a proper try.”

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