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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Ian Doyle

Liverpool face up to Thiago Alcantara reality as injury problem becomes clear

Amid Alisson Becker's impassioned address following last week's Champions League exit to Real Madrid, the Liverpool goalkeeper briefly pondered on where things had gone wrong this season.

"We had injuries, I think we don’t like to talk about it in football," he said. "We’re not going to use it as an excuse, but the injuries certainly hurt us. Now we only have one player left out, so that’s no longer an excuse."

Alisson's intention was not to overlook Stefan Bajcetic and Calvin Ramsay, both of whom have seen their campaigns already ended through injury but are at the very start of their respective Liverpool careers.

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But with the Reds hopeful Luis Diaz will be back in team training when those players not on international duty reconvene at the AXA Training Centre at the start of next week, it means Thiago Alcantara is, at present, the only senior squad member in the treatment room with a long-term issue, albeit it nearing a return to action.

If a rarity for Jurgen Klopp potentially to have so many players available, that Thiago is not one of them has been a recurring theme ever since the Spaniard arrived from Bayern Munich in September 2020.

The midfielder, who turns 32 next month, has been absent from the last eight matches with a hip problem having started all 10 games for the Reds since the resumption of the season after the World Cup in which he did not take part having been overlooked by his country.

It's Thiago's second absence this season having limped off shortly after half-time of the opening weekend draw at Fulham back in August with a hamstring complaint that kept him out for five matches. He also sat out the defeat at Nottingham Forest in October and the Champions League win at Ajax a few days later due to an ear infection.

Thiago has missed 15 of Liverpool's 40 games this season through injury. Last term, he sat out 22 of 63 due to fitness concerns. And during his debut Reds campaign, he was absent for 20 of 51 matches. That's an availability rate of around 63%.

And when Thiago is fit, he tends to play. Only twice has he failed to come off the bench when named among the substitutes, and only once has he been rested from the squad completely. Of his 93 appearances, 71 have been as a starter. However, he has played the full 90 minutes just 31 times.

But how influential is the Spaniard? Of course, results are usually not down to one player. And while this season Liverpool have lost a third of games both with and without Thiago starting, they win more times when he is in the XI with 50%. Last season, though, the Reds won 21 of 25 games in which he started, compared to 25 of 37 when he did not. Thiago made a difference.

Those figures can at times be misleading, however. Indeed, when Liverpool were struggling at the start of the calendar year, Thiago assumed greater responsibility with both Jordan Henderson and Fabinho out of the team, and was one of the Reds' better performers before his latest injury struck.

Beyond doubt, though, is that with the midfield continuing to cause major issues for Klopp, having Thiago back and fit as soon as possible would be of huge benefit.

And with arguably his best run of Liverpool form coming when starting nine of the last 10 games that saw the Reds somehow snatch Champions League qualification two year ago, Thiago has shown he can deliver at the business end of a campaign.

If Liverpool are to secure another unlikely top-four finish, they will most likely need their Spanish schemer driving them on from the engine room once more.


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