Jurgen Klopp will hope the likes of Roberto Firmino, Takumi Minamino and Thiago Alcantara
can step up and deliver for the Reds Liverpool’s January just got much, much harder.

The Reds brought in the New Year with a cracker down at Chelsea. Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge was a wonderful advert for Premier League football, even if the result has likely ended both sides’ hopes of a title challenge.

“It’s never boring with us!” smiled Pep Lijnders afterwards.

The Dutchman had stood in for Jurgen Klopp in west London, with the manager isolating having returned a positive Covid-19 test ahead of the game, and paid a “big compliment” to his side, who had nine first-teamers missing due to injury, illness and suspension.

Liverpool’s resources were certainly stretched at Chelsea, with three teenagers and two goalkeepers named among their substitutes.

There was no specialist attacker on the bench, with midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain asked to play as an auxiliary No.9 during the final 20 minutes.

And now, it gets even tougher.

Off to the Africa Cup of Nations go Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita, leaving Klopp and Lijnders with the unenviable task of negotiating the rest of the month with a patchwork squad.

Sadio Mane Mohamed Salah Liverpool 2021-22 GFX

Liverpool’s schedule is packed, with games in three competitions. And while it could be worse from a Premier League perspective – they play only Brentford (home) and Crystal Palace (away) in January – the Carabao Cup semi-final with Arsenal and the FA Cup third-round tie against League One Shrewsbury simply cannot be downplayed.

The cup competitions, after all, are where the chance for glory lies this season.

Lijnders was bullish when asked by GOAL how Liverpool will cope without Salah, Mane and Keita in the coming weeks.

“You can try to plan it but you can never prepare it,” he said. “It’s not a worry because we have faith in the boys we have, and a few boys are coming back as well.

“And we know that certain players who have been playing in midfield can play more offensively as well, so it’s all good.”

Liverpool, GOAL understands, are not planning for any major arrivals during the transfer window, so with that in mind, let’s take a look at those who will need to step up for Klopp this month.

Takumi Minamino

Last week, the Japan international celebrated the two-year anniversary of his move to Anfield. His £7.25 million ($9.8m) purchase from Salzburg was seen at the time as a snip, the archetypal ‘Liverpool signing’ if you will.

Minamino’s impact on Merseyside, though, has been minimal. His contributions, to this point, have been limited to domestic cup matches, and he spent the second half of last season out on loan at Southampton.

He has not started a Premier League game for the Reds in more than a year, and was absent from the squad at Chelsea due to a muscle issue.

Takumi Minamino Liverpool 2021-22 GFX

Klopp said the 26-year-old was back “running outside” last week, and Liverpool will hope he can return, if not for Thursday’s League Cup game at the Emirates, then certainly for next week’s second leg at Anfield.

Minamino’s form this season has been decent enough. He has scored five times, including a superbly-taken stoppage-time equaliser against Leicester just before Christmas, but Liverpool need him to do now what he hasn’t been able to do so far: get in the team and stay there.

Roberto Firmino

Another who was on the missing list at Stamford Bridge.

Firmino was one of three first-team players – Alisson Becker and Joel Matip were the other two – to test positive for coronavirus last week, and is expected to sit out the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg as a result.

Beyond that, though, the Brazilian can expect to return to the starting XI, where he will be asked – along with Diogo Jota – to help fill the goalscoring void left by the departures of Salah and Mane.

Roberto Fimino Liverpool 2021-22 GFXFirmino has scored six times so far this season, including a hat-trick at Watford back in October, but his campaign had been hampered by two hamstring injuries prior to the positive Covid test, and the signs are that his days as a guaranteed starter in Klopp’s strongest XI are gone.

Jota, with a dozen goals to his name and the same ability to press from the front, looks ready to usurp the former Hoffenheim man.

Firmino knows that, and a few decent performances this month – not to mention a few goals – would be more than handy, both for the player and the club.

Divock Origi

If anything sums up the bad luck that has hit Liverpool in recent weeks, it’s the fact that Origi, who will have had the Christmas and January period circled in his calendar for months, managed to pick up an injury which has so far prevented him from appearing in any of the Reds’ festive fixtures.

“Knee soreness,” was the initial diagnosis of the problem sustained in the Champions League win at AC Milan on December 7, but the Belgian has not been seen since then, unable to even train with his team-mates at Kirkby.

Divock Origi Liverpool 2021-22 GFX

How Klopp would have loved to have had him at Tottenham and at Leicester, where five precious points went up in smoke.

Lijnders would almost certainly have turned to him at Chelsea, when his presence and threat against a tiring defence would have been so useful.

Liverpool hope to have him back available soon, and while he is patently not Salah or Mane, his return will be more than welcome. He is likely to start games in the coming weeks.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Considering one of the reasons he left Arsenal for Liverpool was his desire to play in central midfield, it has been more than a little surprising to witness the attempted reinvention of Oxlade-Chamberlain as a Firmino-esque No.9 this season.

It hasn’t worked, to be brutally honest. Oxlade-Chamberlain has many attributes, but lacks the touch and awareness to play with his back to goal.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Liverpool 2021-22 GFX

His best performances this season have come as part of a midfield three, but it would not be a surprise to see him line up high on the right or left flank during January. That, after all, is where he made his name as a player.

Having been fit and available for well over a year now, this is the time for Oxlade-Chamberlain to really stand up and be counted, wherever Klopp plugs him in.

Thiago Alcantara

Remember the excitement among supporters when Thiago joined from Bayern Munich? And remember the naysayers talking about his age and injury record?

In a strange way, both have been proven right since. Thiago has looked a million dollars in a Liverpool shirt at times, a cut above just about any other midfield player around, but those sightings have been too rare.