Football

Likely recall for Firmino, Mane

Liverpool manager Klopp set to return star duo to starting line-up against Stoke

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp is set to restore attacking duo Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to his first XI for tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) visit to Stoke City.

Klopp has come under criticism after leaving out some of his biggest names in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea last Saturday and throwing away a 3-0 lead at Sevilla before that.

English Premier League
STOKE CITY LIVERPOOL

Against Chelsea, Firmino and Mane began the game on the bench, as part of five changes Klopp made.

However, the German stressed that any changes he made to his team should not be seen as a desire to rest players, and instead should be viewed as opportunities to exercise the depth of his squad.

"They're not the only two," he said, when asked if the duo will start at the Bet365 Stadium.

"We had to make a few changes (against Chelsea). It makes absolute sense in this part of the season to use the strength of the squad.

"That means if you involve players you have to leave a few others out and that's what we did.

"But it's not completely unlikely that they will start."

"I thought it worked quite well (against Chelsea)," he added.

Sixth in the EPL table, the Reds' form this season has been mixed.

After the draw with Chelsea, who equalised with a late goal, former Man City midfielder Joey Barton said that the team are "regressing" under the former Borussia Dortmund coach.

But Klopp insisted yesterday that they are closing the gap between themselves and the title contenders, and urged his team to keep their focus as the busy festive period approaches.

He said: "Yes, we've made progress, 100 per cent. We've been more patient in specific games. We feel in a really good way.

"Chelsea are an unbelievably difficult team to play. We played them in a completely different manner. We dominated them.

"That's fantastic. This is now a really decisive period of the season. We need to be spot-on."

He also denied that his team are not strong enough mentally to close out games they should have won.

Liverpool let slip a 1-0 advantage against Chelsea, having squandered a 3-0 lead against Sevilla last week.

He said: "They are two very different games, completely different games.

"Having a 1-0 lead against Chelsea is no lead, it is only a little information. It becomes a real result only when the final whistle goes... so that is completely different (from Sevilla).

"If somebody wants to think in that way, I cannot avoid that probably.

"But I have not, for a second, the impression that it is a psychological thing."

Centre back Dejan Lovren remains a doubt for tomorrow morning's game, but midfielder Emre Can is available for selection after recovering from an injury.

Stoke have no fresh injury concerns for the clash, with Geoff Cameron (concussion) still to rejoin the squad after three weeks out. - WIRE SERVICES

Football