Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hinted that midfielder Naby Keita was left out of the squad for the Premier League win over Sheffield United on Saturday so that he could be saved for Wednesday night’s Champions League clash with Red Bull Salzburg instead.
Keita has been plagued with injuries since moving to Anfield last summer and made his comeback from his latest setback in the Carabao Cup last week. But fans were perplexed when the number eight was left out of the squad altogether in Sheffield.
Klopp explained that instead of making the trip to Bramall Lane, Keita was able to take part in valuable additional training sessions to sharpen his fitness.
“[Naby was left out] for the matches that are coming up in mind,” the Reds boss said, as quoted by the Liverpool Echo, as he addressed the media ahead of Salzburg's visit.
“We could have taken him on the bench at the weekend but then he would have lost two proper sessions and we wanted to give him these sessions. He should be ready now.”
Klopp also relayed that staff described Keita’s session on Sunday as ‘really good and important’.
The former Borussia Dortmund coach also has increasing hopes for Keita in general, with the Guinea international settling more and more into life at Anfield and understanding what is expected. Klopp even revealed that their latest chat was in English – described as 'a big step'.
For Keita, Wednesday night will represent a meeting with his former club, having made his name with Red Bull Salzburg after joining the Austrian side as a teenager. It was from there that he moved on to RB Leipzig in Germany, before arriving at Liverpool in 2018.
Keita’s time in Salzburg was also where he struck up his close friendship with Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane, even though their time together at the club was actually very brief, as Mane left to join Southampton only a couple of months after Keita arrived.
Champions League holders Liverpool are in need of a win against Salzburg after suffering defeat to Napoli on matchday one. The Reds will come up against teenage goalscoring sensation Erling Braut Håland, who is likely to have the eyes of Europe firmly on him at Anfield.