Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk is desperate for Naby Keita to avoid another injury-interrupted season in 2020-21 and prove to the Premier League he is "world class".

Keita, 25, joined the Reds from RB Leipzig in 2018 after earning rave reviews for the German side and their sister club Salzburg, where he spent two years until 2016.

In Germany, Keita marked himself out as one of the most promising midfielders in Europe – his ability on the ball and knack for scoring or creating goals seeing him attract interest from many of the world's biggest clubs.

Liverpool stole a march by securing his transfer – reportedly worth up to £54million – almost a year early, so sure were they in his abilities, but his first two seasons in the Premier League have been impacted by injuries.

His form since the season's resumption after the coronavirus hiatus has given cause for optimism, however, with the Guinea international setting up goals against Aston Villa and Brighton and Hove Albion, and scoring in the 5-3 win over Chelsea.

Van Dijk is thrilled to see Keita shining on the pitch and hopes the midfielder's fitness issues vanish next term.

"I'm just very happy for Naby," Van Dijk told Liverpool's official website. "Naby is a fantastic guy, he works so hard and he is an outstanding football player.

"We see it week in and week out. He has unfortunately been unlucky with some injuries, but hopefully he can stay fully fit for the next season.

"I think he is world class, if I'm absolutely honest. I see all the moments when he has the ball, the smart moves, the smart intelligence.

"It's just incredible to see and I'm very happy for him."

Keita featured 18 times in Liverpool's successful 2019-20 Premier League campaign, seven fewer than he managed the season before.

Liverpool held off a Christian Pulisic-inspired comeback as the runaway Premier League champions overcame Chelsea 5-3 ahead of the trophy presentation at Anfield. 

Jurgen Klopp's title winners got into the party spirit as they were involved in an eight-goal thriller on Merseyside in their final home game of an unforgettable season, though there was little sign of the late drama to come when they led 4-1. 

Naby Keita's right-footed rocket opened the scoring, and there was a long-awaited home goal for Roberto Firmino - his first in the league since March 2019 - early in the second half. 

The impressive Pulisic helped the Blues battle back to 4-3, raising hopes of clinching the draw they required to make certain of a top-four finish, but Liverpool had the last word, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain slamming home to secure the win.

Jurgen Klopp was delighted with Naby Keita after the midfielder produced an influential performance in Liverpool's 3-1 Premier League win away at Brighton and Hove Albion.

Keita assisted Mohamed Salah's sixth-minute opener after his pressing led to a turnover in possession, while he also started the move that led to Liverpool's second, scored by captain Jordan Henderson on Wednesday.

The Guinea international has struggled for consistency since joining the Reds from RB Leipzig in 2018, his career on Merseyside hampered by injury issues, but he has impressed since the resumption of the season.

Keita – who set up Sadio Mane's opener in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday – created four chances before being substituted in the 61st minute against Brighton, with Klopp particularly pleased with his contribution to Liverpool's first goal.

"He is getting better and better, step by step and game by game and that's really cool," Liverpool manager Klopp told the media when asked about Keita's display.

"I am really happy about that. Long may it continue, let me say it like this. When him and the boys stay fit then everything is fine with the quality they have, the way we play suits them.

"Tonight, being a player like Naby but winning these balls, as the coach I am I couldn't be happier about these kind of goals. Everybody is involved in that and I am really grateful for seeing things like this."

Victory on the south coast moves Liverpool up to 92 points, eight shy of Manchester City's Premier League record with four games remaining.

However, Klopp is not interested in looking ahead to reaching a century and is instead focusing only on Burnley, who the champions face at Anfield on Saturday.

"What can I say? When I think about the next four opponents and look at them and think we will get 10 or 12 points," the German said in his post-match news conference. 

"I never did that. I can't do that. We play against Burnley, who are a results machine. I couldn't respect more what they are doing. They played away, won against West Ham, they will come to us and will fight with all they have – so that is what we have to do as well.

"After that, we play Arsenal in a really good moment. After that, we play against Chelsea in a really good moment.

"How could I assume we will get all of these points? I think from now on about the Burnley game."

Liverpool ended a five-game winless run on the road as Mohamed Salah scored twice in a 3-1 triumph over Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday. 

Salah and Jordan Henderson were on target inside the opening eight minutes as the Premier League champions quickly seized control on the south coast, albeit they were helped out by their opponents.

While a first away victory since a 1-0 success at Norwich City on February 15 was made trickier by Leandro Trossard's fine goal before break, Salah made sure of all three points when he headed in at a corner.

After going seven hours and 47 minutes without scoring an away goal in all competitions, a barren run stretching back to Sadio Mane's winner at Norwich City on February 15, Liverpool scored twice within 127 seconds.

Naby Keita was influential in both goals, setting up the opener as he robbed possession from Davy Propper to tee up Salah, who curled in a first-time finish with his left foot.

Brighton failed to heed the early warning as they were pressed into trouble again soon after, Keita springing the counter from a turnover. Roberto Firmino and Salah were also involved before Henderson ran onto the ball to send a shot across Mat Ryan and into the net.

To their credit, the hosts responded impressively following a shocking start.

Alisson kept out Neal Maupay with a point-blank save but the Brazil goalkeeper was left helpless by Trossard's half-volleyed finish from a Tariq Lamptey cross, the sweetly timed strike halving the deficit.

Dan Burn fluffed a glorious chance to equalise on the hour mark, scuffing his finish at the back post, and Salah made him pay.

The Egypt forward took his tally to 19 in the league this season when his run to the near post allowed him to meet Andy Robertson's set-piece delivery, flicking the ball in as Liverpool moved 23 points clear of City.


What does it mean? Reds closing in on century

Liverpool move into the nervous nineties as they chase Manchester City's points record in the competition.

This was an improvement on the tepid display against Aston Villa on Sunday but there are tougher hurdles to clear in the pursuit of a century, including a trip to Arsenal and a clash with Chelsea at Anfield. 

Positive signs for Keita 

Injuries and indifferent form have plagued Keita’s Liverpool career so far. However, after producing the assist for Mane’s opener at the weekend, the midfielder again demonstrated how he can make a difference in attack. He created four chances during his 61 minutes on the pitch.

Seagulls picked off 

Credit to Graham Potter’s side for trying to play out from the back, but their desire to do so proved costly. Propper had his pocket picked for the first, while Adam Webster overran the ball when in possession to leave a gap that Liverpool clinically exploited. 

What's next? 

Liverpool return home to welcome Burnley to Merseyside on Saturday. Brighton are at home on the same day, taking on the dethroned champions City. 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp labelled Thiago Alcantara a "really good player", but was unwilling to say too much about the Bayern Munich midfielder.

Thiago, 29, is out of contract at the Bundesliga club next year and has been linked with a move to Anfield.

Asked about the former Barcelona midfielder amid the transfer talk, Klopp only praised Thiago's quality.

"Would you be surprised if I don't give an answer on that? Just because I never answer these kinds of questions," he told a news conference after Liverpool's 2-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.

"Thiago Alcantara is a really good player. I like a lot of other players out there, but that's all I have to say about that."

Liverpool returned to winning ways thanks to second-half goals from Sadio Mane and Curtis Jones as the champions moved closer to the 100-point mark.

Naby Keita set up Mane's opener and Klopp praised the midfielder, who has struggled to impress since arriving from RB Leipzig in 2018.

"Naby is a top player and it was a difficult game and he was really good. He helped us a lot, not only with the goal. He always made offers. It was not his best game but it was good," he said.

"We play in three days again which is tough, then three days again. It's a tough period, but you need to find solutions for the different moments and Naby was the solution."

Liverpool are away to Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday.

Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to make the move to Camp Nou.

The Inter forward is at the top of Barcelona's list of targets as the Spanish giants eye a long-term replacement for veteran Luis Suarez.

But Inter are not making things easy for Barca.

 

TOP STORY – INTER NOT BUDGING OVER MARTINEZ

Inter are standing firm over Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, according to Sky Sport Italia.

LaLiga champions Barca are determined to sign the Argentina forward but Inter are unwilling to budge on their demands – either pay his €111million release clause or splash €90-95m plus a player chosen by the Serie A club. 

The same network claims Inter loanee  Alexis Sanchez  could renew his loan deal from Manchester United.

 

ROUND-UP

Inter are interested in Real Madrid full-back Achraf Hakimi, reports Calciomercato. Achraf, who has spent the past two seasons on loan at Dortmund, has been linked with the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and others. Inter are admirers of the Morocco international but remain some way off luring him to Milan.

- The Times says Chelsea are prepared to sell star midfielder N'Golo Kante to raise funds for extra transfers. Madrid are thought to be keen on the Frenchman as Chelsea look to sign Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.

Napoli have reached a "total agreement" with Lille for defender Gabriel Magalhaes, says Footmercato. The Brazilian centre-back has also been linked to Everton and Tottenham.

- Sky Sport Italia journalist Gianluca Di Marzio reports Fiorentina are battling Milan and Everton for outgoing PSG defender Thiago Silva, who is a free agent.

Milan have been mooted as the most likely destination for Naby Keita as Liverpool consider selling the former RB Leipzig midfielder, according to Milan Live.

David Alaba to leave Bayern Munich? The Telegraph claims the Bundesliga champions are open to a sale, alerting the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, United and PSG.

Lionel Messi is reportedly set to re-sign with Barcelona.

The Argentina star is out of contract at Camp Nou next year, but is seemingly set to extend his stay with the LaLiga giants a little longer.

Messi, 32, has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona – and he may yet end up a one-club player.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI TO EXTEND BARCELONA CONTRACT UNTIL 2023

Messi will extend his contract at Barcelona until 2023, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The report says the forward will get to decide if he wants to leave the club before then.

Messi is enjoying another fine season with Barcelona, scoring 26 goals in 33 games in all competitions.

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham want to hold onto their stars. The Telegraph reports chairman Daniel Levy is eager to keep Spurs' best players, including Harry Kane – who has been linked to Real Madrid – and Dele Alli and Son Heung-min.

- It remains to be seen if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will stay at Arsenal. CalcioMercato reports the forward – out of contract until 2021 – is open to a move to Inter, but the Gabon international is not among the Serie A club's top choices if they need to replace Lautaro Martinez, who is wanted by Barcelona.

- Madrid are reportedly eager to sign Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga. But Sport says the Ligue 1 club are working to extend the the 17-year-old's contract, with his deal running until 2022.

- Liverpool could be set to make changes. The Sun reports Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi and Dejan Lovren could make exits, while Marko Grujic and Harry Wilson may leave on permanent deals. It also says Liverpool are set to give Naby Keita one more season to prove his worth.

- Borussia Dortmund seem some way off landing Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. Bild reports the Bundesliga club have offered just a little more than €20million (£17.9m) for Bellingham, who reportedly has a release clause of €35m (£31.4m).

- Empoli midfielder Samuele Ricci is reportedly catching the eye. CalcioMercato says Milan have kept an eye on the 18-year-old, while Napoli and Borussia Dortmund are also said to be interested.

Jurgen Klopp said it was "a catastrophe" for Liverpool to learn next year's Africa Cup of Nations has been moved to start in January.

The tournament in Cameroon had been due to be played in June and July, during the off-season for many European leagues, and Liverpool had been planning accordingly.

However, concerns over weather conditions at that time of year meant it was decided to move it on the calendar, which also means there will be no clash with an expanded Club World Cup in China.

While the Africa Cup of Nations will go ahead in cooler temperatures, there was no disguising Klopp's heated response to the decision.

"[It's] for us a catastrophe in that moment losing three players," Klopp said.

"We have absolutely no power. If we say we don't let him go, the player is suspended. How is that possible that the company who pays the player cannot decide if the player has to stay or not?"

He could lose the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita for weeks on end, putting a major dent in plans for what could be a season where Liverpool, this term's runaway leaders, are defending the Premier League title.

Klopp admitted his transfer plans could also be affected by the Confederation of African Football's (CAF) decision, saying it was a move that did African players no favours.

The tournament will run from January 9 to February 6, CAF said.

"Do we really want to open this book now?" Klopp asked, when the subject was raised in a news conference on Friday.

"I couldn't respect the African Cup of Nations more than I do. I like the competition and I've watched it a lot in the past. It's an obvious problem that you play a tournament in the middle of the season.

"I get it that it makes more sense for Africa to play it maybe in our winter, their winter as well, so when the weather is better for them.

"A couple of things which are not OK – one thing is, FIFA plans a tournament [the Club World Cup] in the summer of 2021, a week later or so than the actual Africa Cup of Nations will have started [under the previous plans], I think, or maybe two weeks later, another tournament for a lot of world-class players.

"I mentioned that in the past. I'm not sure if that was part of the decision, when they thought it makes no sense to play it after that tournament so let's play it again in the winter, I don't know.

"Or was the weather the real [reason]? It means another tournament. It's too many tournaments, still.

"The other thing is, it doesn't help African players. We will not sell Sadio, Mo or Naby now because they have a tournament in January or February, but if we have to make a decision about bringing in a player, it's a massive one.

"These decisions are made without asking players, without asking managers, without asking anybody, it's just a decision. FIFA doesn't look like being involved. They're happy having their 24-team [Club] World Cup, offering a lot of money for all the clubs involved. We forget these tournaments are played by players - they don't have a break."

Jurgen Klopp expects to have Fabinho and Dejan Lovren back in full training next week but James Milner and Naby Keita are unavailable for Liverpool's trip to Tottenham.

Defensive midfielder Fabinho has been absent since the end of November after sustaining ankle ligament damage in the 1-1 Champions League draw against Napoli.

Centre-back Lovren was enjoying a run in the team but has been out for a month due to a muscular issue, with Joe Gomez having impressed alongside Virgil van Dijk at the back for the unbeaten Premier League leaders.

However, both players are closing on a return that could come as soon as next weekend's clash with fierce rivals Manchester United.

"Dejan and Fabinho we expect to be back next week in full training, if that's early enough for the United game we will see," Klopp said. 

"They're working really hard, going through the paces, it's good."

Midfield duo Milner and Keita will sit out the clash in north London on Saturday due to muscle injuries.

"James and Naby are unavailable. Both muscles, different, and for different people," Klopp added. 

"Not a timeframe on it. We are open whenever they want to join us, when the medical team gives us the green light. Not this week, or next week, then we will see."

Klopp comes up against a familiar foe this weekend in Jose Mourinho, with Liverpool's 3-1 triumph over United in December 2018 seeing the Portuguese sacked by the Red Devils.

Liverpool boss Klopp is expecting to face a well-drilled Tottenham side, who will have to do without prolific captain Harry Kane.

"I'm expecting a very organised Tottenham side, yes," he added. "Putting some emphasis on defending for sure, using the counter-attacks, but team is too good technically to do just that.

"[Christian] Eriksen, [Dele] Alli, [Giovani] Lo Celso, lots of midfielders who can create situations, the speed they have with Lucas [Moura] and Son [Heung-min] too. 

"It could be [Serge] Aurier and [Ryan] Sessegnon are on the wings on top of that with speed.

" We cannot be 100 per cent sure what they will do but we have signs from what Mourinho did at Man United against us. Different teams and players though. That is normal. Our analysis always ends quite a way from the truth. It is the same for us, we want to be unpredictable.

"Mourinho is a world-class manager with a specific mindset. He wants to win. I respect that a lot. Each situation his team is in he tries to use. That is how managers work."

Jurgen Klopp has confirmed Naby Keita will miss Sunday's FA Cup clash with Merseyside rivals Everton due to a groin injury he suffered before Thursday's 2-0 win over Sheffield United.

Keita was initially named in the starting XI to face the Blades in the Premier League, but a problem sustained in the warm-up forced him to miss out, with James Milner taking his place in the midfield.

It is the latest in a long list of niggling fitness problems the Guinea midfielder has had to endure since moving from RB Leipzig, and the 24-year-old has only made five Premier League appearances this term.

He now appears set for another spell on the sidelines, though Klopp was uncertain of the severity of the injury or even how it was sustained.

"I don't know exactly what he has – it was the groin – but I can say already he will not be involved against Everton," Klopp told reporters.

"That makes it 12 adult players we have [available], plus the kids, so that's not cool, but we cannot change it.

"I have no clue how it happened, I think it was the last shot in the warm-up when he felt something. He came in [the dressing room] and was limping.

"Everybody who has played football has had this kind of injury and it's not nice, it's painful. I don't know exactly what it is or how long it will take, but I can say already he will not be ready for Sunday."

After Sunday's Merseyside derby, Liverpool are next in Premier League action on January 11 at Tottenham.

Jurgen Klopp told Liverpool's players to expect another half-season of tight battles after a 1-0 victory over Wolves at Anfield moved them 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Sadio Mane's goal proved the difference between the two teams as Liverpool survived a scare when Pedro Neto had an equaliser ruled out for offside following the latest in a string of controversial VAR rulings.

The Reds have played half of their fixtures for the season and look destined to win their first domestic league title for 30 years, but Klopp said the second half of the season would bring with it a shift in intensity.

"We are halfway there," Klopp told reporters. "We still have 19 games to play and probably 18 or 19 of them will be like this tonight, for different reasons.

"We will now face teams who fight for the league with all they have, then the fight for the Champions League and European spots is reopened again so they will fight with all they have and we have to be ready.

"Who cares about points in December? We just created a basis which we will work with from now on, that’s all."

Klopp underlined the importance of squad strength after seeing his players collect a 17th consecutive Premier League home victory and extend their unbeaten domestic run at Anfield to 50 matches.

The result means Liverpool can reflect on having won all but one of their nine matches in all competitions across the month of December, and Klopp praised the contribution of Naby Keita and James Milner from the bench in the second half against Wolves.

"Naby and Millie helped immediately, you could see that," said Klopp, who will prepare his players for the visit of Sheffield United at Anfield on Thursday.

"My God, Adam Lallana and Gini [Georginio Wijnaldum], what they played today effort-wise, miles-wise, was really great, but then fresh players there in the half-space helped obviously.

"Then we caused them problems again but didn't finish them off, it was not a game for two or three goals for us tonight, so we had to fight until the end. As I said, no problem with that."

Jurgen Klopp lauded the "very decisive" Naby Keita and believes there is even more to come from the Liverpool midfielder after reaching the Club World Cup final.

Keita opened the scoring in Liverpool's 2-1 semi-final win over Monterrey on Wednesday to continue his fine run of form.

The Guinea international has netted in three straight games, while he has already matched his goal tally of last season with the three strikes.

Klopp praised Keita and said the 24-year-old could get even better for the Premier League leaders.

"Naby, what a player, very decisive, super goal, another super chance," the Liverpool manager told a news conference.

"That's his strength, in small spaces he feels quite comfortable, so that helps us a lot. The runs in behind when we are already high up the pitch, that's an exceptional skill of his that he goes there.

"He scored already a goal like this, had another chance in a similar situation. But Naby is a player who can score goals. It is not the highest number of games he's played for us, but he's scored a lot of goals already, important goals as well.

"Absolutely brilliant how he did that, and there is so much more to come. Maybe if you know Naby a bit longer you would say, 'OK, that looked really good but there is still some space'. That's absolutely brilliant news for us."

Mohamed Salah's wonderful pass set up Keita's opener, but Liverpool needed a 91st-minute winner from Roberto Firmino after Rogelio Funes Mori had equalised for Monterrey.

With plenty of attention on Egypt international Salah in Qatar, Klopp said he was happy with his star forward's performance.

"First of all the pass for Naby's goal was from Mo, that much to your thesis that he couldn't play the final ball," he said. "The ball for [James] Milner's chance was from Mo as well.

"We are all human beings and the attention on Mo in this part of the world is obviously massive.

"I thought he played a sensationally good game for everything that happened around [him]. When you go out for a warm-up and everyone is only looking at you, I wouldn't feel too comfortable with that. He deals really well with it.

"He was always a threat, he played a really good game, until the last minute he was there for the balls in behind, stuff like this.

"They tried to defend him from time to time with two guys… that's really aggressive but that's how life is, he has to deal with it. But I'm really happy with Mo's game."

Liverpool will aim to win their first Club World Cup title when they face Flamengo in the final on Saturday.

Liverpool are "greedy for more" after advancing to the last 16 of the Champions League as Group E winners by beating Salzburg 2-0 on Tuesday, said Andy Robertson.

Two second-half goals in the space of 100 seconds from Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah ensured the holders finished ahead of Napoli, who beat Genk 4-0, in their section.

Keita headed home following a brilliant run and cutback from Sadio Mane, while Salah slotted home from an acute angle at the edge of the box after rounding Cican Stankovic.

"Of course, we're greedy for more. We've got people saying we've struggled through and we've got four more points than we did last year," Robertson told BT Sport.

"Top of the group and now we go on to the last 16. We know what we can do there and it's all about us doing it on the big stage and we've proven over the past two years we can do it and we'll hopefully do it again.

"We knew they were trying to make history for their club - they've never been in the last 16. They feel they're a Champions League team and they're very confident in that. It was all about coming here and riding that wave.

"We had the biggest chances in the first 45, so it was up to us to be a bit more clinical. We knew if we kept going that chances would come and, luckily, we put them away, and then the lads defending as a whole team to keep a clean sheet when you need to is so important."

On Salah's goal, he added: "It was probably his toughest chance of the game. Mo had a couple of great chances and they [Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino] put so much pressure on themselves to score goals and stuff.

"It was a ridiculous goal, to be fair. I didn't know how it got in from there - a fantastic finish on his weaker foot."

The opening goal was created and scored by former Salzburg players in Mane and Keita, and the Senegalese forward sympathised with his former club.

"It was a really tough game today, but we expected that. We created many chances in the second half and Naby scored a wonderful goal, so I'm happy for him against his former club. We deserved to win tonight and we are happy," said Mane.

"It's always nice to come back here because it's where it all started for me. I'm really grateful to the club, the fans and the people here. Sorry guys, but it's football, we have to do it and that's it!"

Liverpool overcame a thorough examination from Salzburg to prevail 2-0 in Austria and book their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Jurgen Klopp's men needed to avoid defeat to be sure of continuing their European title defence – something that looked far from assured in a high-octane first half, where there were openings at both ends.

Naby Keita made the 57th-minute breakthrough before Mohamed Salah added a wonderful second 100 seconds later, although goalkeeper Cican Stankovic will rue his part in both goals

Highly-rated Salzburg striker Erling Haaland was unable to add to his eight Champions League goals this season, but few Europa League opponents will relish facing him and his relentless team-mates when they drop down after the turn of the year.

Stankovic was forced into a save from Salah when the Liverpool forward beautifully brought down Dejan Lovren's raking ball, but Salzburg made much of the running in a frenetic opening.

Hwang Hee-chan and Takumi Minamino's invention and clever movement was causing the Reds problems and Alisson made a brilliant double save in the seventh minute to deny each man from close range.

Haaland's pursuit of a goal in every Champions League group game ran into Alisson in the 24th minute after he sprung onto a Minamino pass behind Lovren.

Salah dragged woefully wide of the near post and Stankovic stood firm when the Egypt star played Keita through in first-half stoppage time.

Haaland blasted a promising chance into the side netting and Salzburg would rue their marksman's unusual wastefulness as they conceded twice in quick succession before the hour.

Stankovic had charged out boldly to check Salah near the edge of his box shortly after the restart but was too ambitious when Sadio Mane rounded him down the left channel and crossed for Keita to head in.

Salah then danced around the over-zealous Austria international but still had plenty to do – the finish from a tight angle on his weaker right foot was sublime.  

Roberto Firmino, Salah and Mane all went close to a third goal during the closing stages as Salzburg's exertions took a clear toll.

Jurgen Klopp revealed he had consistently reassured Naby Keita before the midfielder starred when given his chance for Liverpool against Bournemouth.

Keita scored and provided an assist on his first start of the Premier League season in Saturday's 3-0 win at the Vitality Stadium.

A £53million signing from RB Leipzig in 2018, Keita has had his difficulties since arriving at Anfield and Klopp said he frequently spoke to the Guinea international regarding his standing at Liverpool.

"Naby is sitting outside and thinks 'why don't I play?’ I get all that," the Liverpool manager told UK newspapers.

"So we stayed in contact, we talked and we spoke a lot about it, but in the end of course the player needs to have this evidence that the coach or the manager still believes in you.

"Naby had injuries and the team was and is in really good shape, so then do you change and, if you want to change, we are not flying – it's not like we won all our games 4-0 or 5-0 – so we [have] had to bring on a player who helps defending set-pieces."

After Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring at Bournemouth, Keita struck before setting up Mohamed Salah for the Premier League leaders.

As Liverpool's rotation continued for the encounter, Klopp said his squad understood the situation.

"It's not difficult for me to leave players out," he said.

"I didn't speak to Sadio [Mane] about it. I didn't speak to Divock Origi. I didn't speak to Bobby [Firmino] or Mo last week. I didn't speak to Hendo [Jordan Henderson].

"I didn't ask. I just have to make decisions and then next time everyone knows someone else will play.

"The boys are a really smart group who look at the schedule. They know how it is."

Liverpool visit Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to reach the Champions League last 16.

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