Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has no doubts over ‘brilliant’ Naby Keita as he returns from injury

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita made his first Premier League start since Boxing Day against Norwich City at the weekend, after overcoming the latest in a line of injuries.

The No. 8 has shone sporadically since joining the Reds, with spells of action trying to hit top form being continually interrupted by muscle problems over the past two seasons.

Most recently, Keita missed four league games with a groin strain, while earlier in the campaign he missed eight matches with a hip issue.

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But now he has featured in the Reds’ last three league fixtures, two off the bench before 84 minutes in the 1-0 win over Norwich on Saturday, and his manager is ready to rely on him once more.

Jurgen Klopp says he has never doubted Keita’s ability, but that form and fitness dictates who keeps their place in the team at the table-toppers.


Ratings: Norwich vs Liverpool





1/22 Tim Krul – 7

2/22 Max Aarons – 7

3/22 Christoph Zimmermann – 7

4/22 Grant Hanley – 7

5/22 Sam Byram – N/A

6/22 Alexander Tettey – 7

7/22 Kenny McLean – 6

8/22 Ondrej Duda – 5

9/22 Lukas Rupp – 5

10/22 Todd Cantwell – 7

11/22 Teemu Pukku – 6

12/22 Alisson – 7

13/22 Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7

14/22 Joe Gomez – 6

15/22 Virgil van Dijk – 7

16/22 Andrew Robertson – 7

17/22 Naby Keita – 7

18/22 Jordan Henderson – 7

19/22 Georginio Wijnaldum – 6

20/22 Mohamend Salah – 5

21/22 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 5

22/22 Roberto Firmino – 6

1/22 Tim Krul – 7

2/22 Max Aarons – 7

3/22 Christoph Zimmermann – 7

4/22 Grant Hanley – 7

5/22 Sam Byram – N/A

6/22 Alexander Tettey – 7

7/22 Kenny McLean – 6

8/22 Ondrej Duda – 5

9/22 Lukas Rupp – 5

10/22 Todd Cantwell – 7

11/22 Teemu Pukku – 6

12/22 Alisson – 7

13/22 Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7

14/22 Joe Gomez – 6

15/22 Virgil van Dijk – 7

16/22 Andrew Robertson – 7

17/22 Naby Keita – 7

18/22 Jordan Henderson – 7

19/22 Georginio Wijnaldum – 6

20/22 Mohamend Salah – 5

21/22 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 5

22/22 Roberto Firmino – 6

“Naby is a brilliant player,” the Liverpool boss told the club website.

“We only have to make sure we have only brilliant players, by the way! That’s sometimes the problem of the players; when you play, you play really well and why should we change?

“I never doubt Naby. Of course he needs games, that’s clear, that’s why he gets games when he is fit.

“If you look at when he was fit and how often he played then, not so bad. That’s the situation.”

While Keita put in an encouraging performance for the most part against the Canaries, there’s no guarantees of staying in the side.

Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum have habitually been the go-to midfield trio when fit this term – and with almost every senior player now available, Klopp has big decisions to make.

The Reds have been beset by injury absences throughout the squad all season, leaving Klopp with minimal options at times in certain positions, though often it has been the case that the absence for one player has been the opportunity for another.

That has been particularly evident in central defence, with Joe Gomez most recently starring alongside Virgil van Dijk after two others had done so earlier in the campaign.

Klopp has praised the versatility and quality of his squad which offers Liverpool “different solutions” when players are out injured.

“That is good. For the players when they come back, rhythm-wise, look at Joel [Matip] and Dejan [Lovren].

“They both played sensationally for us and now Joel was not in the squad [at Norwich]. That’s really, really hard.

“When they are all fit, this is the situation – that’s for Naby the same and for others.”

Along with Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another who has been in the team recently and will be hoping to stay in the lineup against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Sadio Mane’s return to fitness will give Klopp yet further options though, as he plots the defence of Liverpool’s Champions League title.

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