Stoke V Liverpool at bet365 Stadium : Match Preview

By
07 April 2017

Jurgen Klopp to make late fitness call on Philippe Coutinho ahead of Stoke game

Injuries and illness are threatening to derail Liverpool's bid for Champions League football after Sadio Mane was ruled out for the rest of the season and Philippe Coutinho took unwell.

Mane is to undergo surgery on knee cartilage damage sustained in last week's Merseyside derby, adding his name to those of captain Jordan Henderson, fellow midfielders Adam Lallana and Ovie Ejaria and striker Danny Ings who are currently available for Jurgen Klopp's third-placed side.

Coutinho, forced off in Wednesday's draw against Bournemouth after being sick at half-time, is a major doubt for Saturday's trip to Stoke leaving Klopp with a major selection headache.

The squad will travel this evening - without Coutinho - to their Staffordshire pre-match hotel but his manager will give the Brazil international until the last possible opportunity to prove his fitness and has not ruled out him joining up with the team in the hours before kick-off.

"I am pretty sure Sadio will need surgery but I am not 100 per cent sure when it will happen but then it is clear 'season over'," said Klopp.

"Phil is still ill. He was not at Melwood yesterday and he will not be here today. He feels much better but we will have to see if we can bring him tomorrow.

"Stoke is not too far away so we will give him all the time he needs.

"It compromises our situation and makes life not easy. These are the highest-quality players and if you took out all the players which we miss now from other teams I'd be surprised if they could play their best football.

"We don't play them (the top six) any more so we don't have influence on their games but I don't think 65 points (Liverpool currently have 60) will be enough to go to Champions League so we need to collect a few more points.

"Our opponents are really strong and two of the six will not be in the Champions League.

"But at this moment it is only how we can make a line-up against Stoke - and that is a real challenge."

With so many players sidelined Liverpool's squad for tomorrow will be stretched to the limit with more under-23 players likely to come in to join those youngsters who have been included previously.

Striker Daniel Sturridge will be in the squad again, having been an unused substitute in midweek, but he has not played since February 4 and ideally Klopp would like to ease him back.

If Coutinho does not make it that could mean a first league start for 17-year-old Ben Woodburn who, even though he became the club's youngest goalscorer in November, has made just seven appearances.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes is set to give record signing Giannelli Imbula one more chance before making a decision on whether to sell him in the summer.

Imbula joined the Potters for B#18.3million from Porto, but has struggled to make an impact and last started a Premier League game in December.

Despite reports the club are prepared to take a significant loss and off-load him at the end of the current campaign, Hughes says he has not yet given up hope that the Belgian-born player could be a success.

Hughes said: "It's fair to say he has struggled this year in terms of having an impact and that's unfortunate. But any decision on any player will not be made during the season.

"He had a bright start when he first came in, but it's about a consistent level of performance and he has struggled to maintain that to be honest."

Stoke's midweek defeat at Burnley was their third in succession and came after a testing run of games against the likes of Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea.


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