Liverpool v Man City: Match in pictures
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Normally Premier League managers spend the international break praying none of their players pick up injuries while away with their countries, but there is now a greater threat. In the era of coronavirus restrictions, it is now the word ‘quarantine’ which is giving managers nightmares – and that is the case for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp at the moment.
Liverpool have 14 first-team players currently away on international duty and Klopp will be hoping all of them return to Merseyside unscathed.
But two players in particular will be giving Klopp a headache while he begins to prepare for Liverpool’s upcoming games against Watford, on October 16, and Atletico Madrid on October 19.
Alisson and Fabinho have joined up with the Brazil squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela, Colombia and Uruguay. So far, so normal.
But, as we learnt last month during the last international break, fixtures in South America are far from straightforward.
September saw the farcical scenes in Sao Paulo where Brazilian authorities shut down a match against Argentina after levelling allegations against the away side’s Premier League players for their lack of quarantining.
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That came after the Brazilian FA had already attempted to invoke a five-day ban for players who were blocked call-ups by their clubs.
Those days are gone after the UK government stepped in to give footballers returning from red-listed countries quarantine exemptions, which allows them to leave their mandatory 10-day isolation once a day to train or play.
The new rules will make it easier for those coming back from the World Cup qualifiers, but there is another stumbling block for the clubs with Brazilian players.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, Brazil’s final game in the break against Uruguay takes place in Manaus on Friday, October 15 and kicks off at 1.30am UK time.
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According to The Times, Liverpool submitted a request to push back their Premier League game against Watford on Saturday from 12.30pm to 7.45pm, but it was rejected by the Hornets, who did not want to inconvenience their supporters.
There had been a hope that the Premier League-based players might be allowed to return before the Uruguay game, meaning they might have been available to play on the weekend.
However, that idea has gone up in flames following comments by Brazil manager Tite on Thursday.
“There was never that possibility [of them returning to England early]. They were called up for the three games,” he said bluntly.
So, Klopp will be without two of his most important defensive players against Watford, while it will be touch-and-go whether they will be back for the second away game in four days against Atletico Madrid on October 20.
Fabinho and Alisson could possibly fly straight to Madrid from Manaus, but it is not clear if they would be allowed to leave their isolation to play under Spain’s rules.
That remains up in the air at the time of writing. But what is certain is that Klopp will need to plan for the worst case scenario.
Caoimhin Kelleher will come in for Alisson in goal against Watford, who might suddenly fancy their chances of causing an upset.
Liverpool are the only unbeaten side in the Premier League this season, but they have conceded six goals in their past three matches. Without their outstanding goalkeeper and defensive midfielder, they are undeniably weaker.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Thiago Alcantara are expected to return after missing the 2-2 draw against Manchester City, which is an undoubted boost.
Yet after the in-form Mohamed Salah and defensive kingpin Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Alisson are arguably Liverpool’s most important players.
Their absences pose the biggest threat to Liverpool’s unbeaten record this season. Klopp has a serious challenge on his hands after the international break finishes.
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