Jordan Henderson believes Thiago Alcantara has been a "brilliant" addition for Liverpool despite significant struggles for Jurgen Klopp's side of late.

Klopp conceded Liverpool's Premier League title defence was effectively over after a 3-1 weekend defeat at Leicester City left them 13 points shy of leaders Manchester City having played a game more.

The Reds are back in Champions League action against RB Leipzig in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday, bruised by a run of five defeats in seven domestically and three in succession.

Spain playmaker Thiago arrived as a coup of a close-season signing from European champions Bayern Munich, billed as the man to take Klopp's phenomenal winning machine to the next level.

He sparkled on his debut from the bench in a 2-0 win at Chelsea but a bout of coronavirus them preceded a maiden start in the Merseyside derby against Everton, one cut short by Richarlison's red-card lunge.

That meant a lengthy spell on the sidelines until the December 30 0-0 draw at Newcastle.

Thiago returned to the starting line-up at Southampton next time out and the 1-0 defeat was the first of six reverses in his subsequent 10 outings in all competitions - culminating in the nightmare unravelling at the King Power Stadium.

Nevertheless, club captain Henderson holds his team-mate in the highest regard.

"Thiago's been brilliant since he's come to the club. I think everyone knows how good a player he is. He's a world class player," he said.

"Even off the field he's a really good person, leads by example and you learn a lot from him.

"He's been a fantastic addition to the squad."

Pass master interrupted by injuries

Injury means Thiago is yet to play a minute in the Champions League this season, making comparisons with his purring form in Bayern's treble run last time around tricky.

But judging per 90 minutes played, the former Barcelona man's main stock in trade appears to be in good order.

Thiago averages 78.1 successful passes each match for Klopp's men, second only to Henderson (81.1) this term, set against 84.3 last season for a Bayern team a little more noted for their ball retention.

He creates 1.2 chances per game for Liverpool, up on 1.1 for the Bavarian giants in 2019-20, while his overall passing accuracy has only dropped fractionally from 90.6 per cent to 89.2.

Complaints that Thiago has neutered Liverpool as an attacking force can be countered by the fact that no Reds player averages more than his 30 passes ending in the final third per game, suggesting a progressive element of his game is very much present. He passed into these danger areas 24 times per 90 at Bayern last season.

Perhaps concerns should be more centred upon what happens when Thiago doesn't have the ball.

A liability in the tackle?

Having started the Leicester match on the bench, only to be pressed into action by James Milner's first-half injury, his foul on Harvey Barnes inside the final 15 minutes led to the hosts' equaliser and started the meltdown.

Thiago's tracking of Barnes for Leicester's third also left plenty to be desired but he can be a danger to himself and his team when he engages opponents.

Despite his limited game time, the 29-year-old's 28 fouls this season are second to Sadio Mane (49) in Klopp's first-team squad. Among first-team regulars, his 2.6 challenges per 90 are only behind Milner (2.9).

He might want to dial back this more unhelpful part of his work rate, although the other side of this is 7.5 recoveries (behind Henderson's 8.3 among outfield regulars) and 2.2 interceptions (joint second with Naby Keita to back-up defender Neco Williams on 2.4) every game.

Of course, the most important statistic of all arrives at full-time, and so long as Liverpool are winning 59.1 per cent of their games without Thiago and 30.8 per cent with him, the doubters will remain.

Not that Henderson is among them, as opponents and a competition that have seen his colleague thrive await.

"He probably knows Leipzig better than anyone, so he'll be telling us a few things over the next 24 hours," he added.

"He's settled in very well, like I knew he would. He's a phenomenal player and hopefully he can keep improving every time he plays for us and getting used to the way we play as a team."

Thiago Alcantara is a rather unique breed of footballer, the type of player who will be almost universally enjoyed such are his breath-taking technical attributes.

It's like he rolls the passing talents of Juan Roman Riquelme and first touch of Ronaldinho into a single player and saunters around the pitch ensuring the game is played at a pace dictated by him.

His Liverpool career feels a lot shorter than it actually has been because of his absence through injury, and he'll be hoping his recent return is the catalyst to kick-starting what is resembling a fairly meek title defence.

But while Thiago has shown flashes of his immense ability in his fledgling Liverpool career, it appears not all are entirely convinced.

Former Reds midfielder Dietmar Hamann expressed his reservations in an interview with talkSPORT on Tuesday, suggesting Thiago is detrimental to a key part of Liverpool's play; utilising a quick tempo with hard-working midfielders who look to get the ball forward to the front three as soon as possible.

Hamann urged Liverpool to be cautious about how much influence they let Thiago have, questioning his effectiveness when not in possession and suitability to the Reds' system, concerns that won't have been eased by Thursday's shock defeat to Burnley.

But does this give a fair reflection of Thiago?

An unnecessary luxury?

First of all, there are only so many conclusions you can make regarding Thiago and his time at Liverpool because he has not featured particularly often, as previously highlighted.

But the fact is, Liverpool's record in Premier League games he has featured in is quite poor, with only one of those six ending in a victory.

That win came in his Premier League debut, a 2-0 victory at Chelsea back in September – that's right, it was the game where he completed 75 passes despite only coming on at half-time, a record since Opta began recording such data in 2003-04 among players to play a maximum of 45 minutes.

The hype after that match was stratospheric – the champions had seemingly added the final string to their bow and they were seemingly set to overwhelm everyone, but it's worth bearing in mind that was a Chelsea side reduced to 10 men before Thiago had even come on.

Liverpool average just one point per game with Thiago, that more than doubles to 2.2 when he hasn't played – additionally, their win percentage rockets from 16.7 to 61.5 in games the Spaniard hasn't featured in.

Of course, it's a relatively small sample size, so perhaps take the facts with a pinch of salt – but there are metrics that can shine more light on Thiago's influence.

One of Hamann's major reservations related to Thiago's desire to dictate play and how he might, in the long run, negatively impact Liverpool's effectiveness off the ball.

"Liverpool were always good when they weren't in possession, won it and played quickly forward. He's not that type of player, so it will be very interesting when he does play more often now how it's going to change the dynamics of the team," Hamann said.

It's true, Liverpool do have more of the ball (65.7 per cent compared to 64.7) with Thiago in the side, but the difference is negligible and certainly cannot be pointed to as a cause for worry.

The supply line

Then there's the concerns relating to Thiago's style of play potentially impacting supply to the frontline. Well, the Reds average 18.7 shots per game when he plays (up from 14.9 without him).

There is also no damning evidence to suggest Thiago isn't looking to feed the forwards either, after all, he passed to Mohamed Salah 11 times (a joint high) against Manchester United last weekend.

He has picked out Salah 36 times in their 365 minutes on the pitch together – so, once every 10.1 minutes. Although that's less frequent than he passes to Trent Alexander-Arnold (once per every 8.2 minutes) and Andy Robertson (8.8 minutes), it shows he is supplying the Reds' most-threatening forward regularly.

And while the two full-backs had off days against Burnley, can you really blame Thiago for passing to them often? Since the start of last season, they are Liverpool's leading providers of shooting opportunities.

Additionally, his 14.9 passes into final third of the pitch per 90 minutes is second only to Jordan Henderson (16.2) among Liverpool players this term – Thiago beats him, and every other Red, in terms of successful passes in the attacking third every game, however (25.8, compared to Henderson's 20.5).

"He's not that type of player"

It's fair to say Thiago probably isn't best known for what he brings to teams off the ball, but despite some seemingly questioning him in this department, he appears to be at least pulling his weight.

In fact, he's averaging marginally more tackles per 90 minutes than Henderson (1.5 over 1.4), while no one in the Liverpool team is intercepting opposition passes as frequently as the Barcelona product (2.8 per 90 mins).

On top of that, he's ranked third in the squad for duel involvements (14.7 per 90 mins) – while not necessarily an indicator of excellence on its own, that should at the very least dispel any questions regarding his work rate.

On an individual level when you look at the data, Thiago doesn't appear to be out of place stylistically. While he may occasionally spend more time on the ball than some of his midfield contemporaries, he possesses the kind of technical wizardry that arguably no other Liverpool player has and that is surely a positive rather than a negative.

He's also clearly a hard-working player who offers plenty off the ball. So, while the Reds are going through a tricky patch at the moment, Thiago's abilities should be embraced rather than looked upon with suspicion.

Thiago Alcantara does not play the "Liverpool way" and they should be cautious about how influential he becomes, according to former Reds midfielder Dietmar Hamann.

Liverpool signed Thiago in September in a deal that is not expected to cost them more than £25million even when add-ons are factored in.

It was seen as a real coup for the club such were the talents he had displayed during his time at Bayern, with many of the opinion he was the missing piece of the puzzle for Jurgen Klopp's Reds as they had been lacking the sort of midfielder capable of dictating the team's tempo.

Injury has restricted him to just five Premier League appearances since the move, the latest of which was in Sunday's 0-0 draw with Manchester United.

In that match Thiago showed flashes of his class, with his dribbling abilities standing out several times, while he also had more touches (122), attempted passes (96) and completed passes (83) than anyone else on the pitch.

But Hamann is not convinced Thiago is the sort of player Liverpool need in their midfield, suggesting the Spaniard likes to take control and slow the play down whereas the Reds have been at their best in recent years when utilising a quick tempo established by hardworking players rather than technical playmakers.

"Liverpool in the past have had hard-working midfielders, they were not as skilful as Thiago, but they gave the ball to [Sadio] Mane and [Mohamed] Salah early," Hamann explained to talkSPORT.

"If you get the ball early on the wing, and these guys can run at players they are very hard to stop.

"I just feel with Thiago, everyone was raving about him coming to Liverpool – he's hardly played. He came on against Chelsea and had the most passes in the second half, against a Chelsea team that was down to 10 men.

"He came on against Newcastle in the last 25 minutes, Newcastle were dead on their feet, everyone was raving about how good he is.

"I can tell you, he's a good player, a skilful player. But there was never a time in Munich where people said, 'oh he's the first on the team sheet'. So, I'd be very cautious when it comes to Thiago.

"And the other thing is, as other people alluded to earlier, he plays a different style of football. He likes to be in possession.

"Liverpool were always good when they weren't in possession, won it and played quickly forward.

"He's not that type of player, so it will be very interesting when he does play more often now how it's going to change the dynamics of the team."

Although Thiago looked bright, Liverpool's front three – particularly Mane and Salah – were quiet against United, with neither able to consistently get the better of the visitors' full-backs Aaron Wan-Bissaka or Luke Shaw, lending credence to Hamann's concerns.

However, Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino all produced two key passes each and Thiago did prove rather effective without the ball, despite Hamann's claims to the contrary.

His three tackles were matched by only Georginio Wijnaldum among Liverpool players, while his six interceptions was the most of anyone on the pitch.

Xherdan Shaqiri surprisingly starts for Liverpool in their top-of-the-table clash with rivals Manchester United at Anfield. 

The Swiss set up two goals after coming off the bench in last weekend's FA Cup win at Aston Villa and has earned himself a place in the XI against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side as a result. 

Jurgen Klopp has gone with a forward-thinking 4-2-3-1 formation in order to fit Shaqiri into the team. 

However, centre-back Joel Matip misses out despite resuming training this week after overcoming a groin injury. 

Klopp has instead opted for Jordan Henderson to partner Fabinho in central defence, with youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips overlooked. 

Although the Reds name a midfield without their club captain, they are able to give Thiago Alcantara his Anfield debut, four months on from his arrival. 

As for United, they make three changes to the side that earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Burnley in midweek. 

Nemanja Matic, Eric Bailly and Edinson Cavani make way to be replaced by Scott McTominay, Victor Lindelof and Fred, meaning Paul Pogba keeps his place after scoring the winner at Turf Moor. 

Anthony Martial is fit to start having been described as an injury doubt in the build-up.

 

Thiago Alcantara could be just the option Liverpool need to kick-start their title defence as Jurgen Klopp ponders whether to hand the midfielder a first Anfield start against Manchester United.

The reigning Premier League champions are yet to see the best of the high-profile signing from Bayern Munich, Thiago having seen his early months on Merseyside hampered by illness and injury.

However, having recovered from a knee issue suffered on October 17 against Everton, the Spain international has featured in Liverpool's past three games, including playing the full 90 minutes of the 1-0 defeat away at Southampton on January 4.

Next up for the Reds is a clash with table-topping United, leaving Klopp to decide if he hands the 29-year-old a long-awaited home debut on Sunday.

"We will see," Klopp said on the possibility of Thiago being in the starting XI to face United. "The most important thing is he's fit, trained, all good.

"He had now 90 and 45 minutes in the last two games. So, we will see if he can play, which position he will play because there are obviously different options and all that stuff.

"But it's really good to have him around now because he's a really good guy and obviously an exceptional football player. It's like a new signing obviously.

"Now he's here and let's hope that it will stay like this for a long, long, long time."

Thiago played in a deep-lying role in Liverpool's midfield at Southampton, completing 89 per cent of his passes and creating one chance as the visitors dominated possession after falling behind early to a Danny Ings goal. The visitors finished with an xG of 1.5, yet managed just one attempt on target for all their dominance.

John Barnes believes Thiago's ability to pick a pass in tight spaces could be crucial in certain circumstances during the remainder of the campaign, particularly as Klopp's much-vaunted forward line has struggled of late when faced with opponents willing to cede territory and get players behind the ball.

Since putting seven past Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on December 19, Liverpool have mustered one league goal in three games. 

"He is very important because it gives us an option," Liverpool legend Barnes told Stats Perform News.

"You need a player like him. I always felt that as much as we've done really well, we've won the league and not lost many games, there are times when teams defend in numbers, get 10 men back behind the ball, and our three midfield players aren't as creative.

"And they don't have that. It's not even flair, it's the insight for the passes in really, really, tight areas, and being able to receive the ball in tight areas and be more creative.

"But that doesn't happen for 90 per cent of the time, as 90 per cent of the time our three midfield players are [Jordan] Henderson, [Georginio] Wijnaldum and Fabinho, those types of players. They stand us in good stead. Not that we've had to change anyway, because we've won the league and lost two games, it's not as if we needed that.

"However, there are the odd games when that's what we need, and therefore that's what he gives us.

"Now, that's not to say that he's going to play every week, or if we were going to play against Manchester City, who may dominate possession more than we do, would we rather play like Thiago Alcantara? Or would you rather have a player like Wijnaldum or Henderson or [James] Milner, who's going to get around and tackle because that's what we need?

"What he's done, though, is he's given us options. And Jurgen has used him wisely, because the games we have used him in is when he knows we're going to dominate possession, whereby he wouldn't be needed that much defensively."

Liverpool, who go into the United game three points behind their opponents, could have Joel Matip available following an adductor injury, Klopp admitting the centre-back is "close" to a return.

Thiago Alcantara has been named in Liverpool's starting XI for just the second time in the Premier League this season following a lengthy lay off due to a knee injury.

Former Bayern Munich playmaker Thiago's only previous start for the Reds came in the Merseyside derby against Everton in October.

Late on in the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park, Thiago was the subject of a rash lunge from Richarlison, who saw red for the challenge.

Thiago carried on to help tee up what seemed to be a last-gasp winner for Jordan Henderson, though it was subsequently ruled out by VAR, but the Spain international then missed the next two months of action.

Having made his return to training in December, Thiago came on from the bench for just his third Reds appearance on Wednesday, yet could not inspire Jurgen Klopp's champions to a win over Newcastle United, who held on for a goalless draw.

In his 22 minutes on the pitch, Thiago completed 21 of 23 passes. Only four Newcastle players attempted more throughout the course of the match.

Klopp had spoke of his unwillingness to take any undue risks with Thiago, who tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after making his Liverpool debut against Chelsea, but the Reds boss restored the 29-year-old to his starting lineup for Monday's game at Southampton.

With Liverpool looking to snap a two-game winless streak, Thiago came in as one of three changes, along with Georginio Wijnaldum and former Southampton player Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who makes his first league start of the season.

Jordan Henderson was placed into a makeshift defence alongside Fabinho, with Joel Matip out due to a groin issue. Liverpool's captain also played at centre-back in the second half of a 1-1 draw with Fulham last month.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino got the nod in attack.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League meetings with Southampton, keeping a clean sheet in six of those matches, though their recent slip-ups have allowed Manchester United to move level on points with them at the top.

The festive period may not have gone quite to plan for Liverpool but the return of Thiago Alcantara provides a reason for optimism at the start of 2021.

The Spaniard came on as a second-half substitute against Newcastle United on Wednesday, having not featured since suffering an injury when caught by Richarlison in the Merseyside derby back in October, a challenge that saw the Everton forward dismissed late on in a 2-2 draw. 

Yet despite the lengthy absence, Thiago hardly showed no signs of rust at St James' Park. While unable to help Liverpool fashion a late winner as they drew for a second successive outing, his appearance off the bench provided a welcome reminder of just what the Reds have missed in recent months. 

After replacing James Milner in the 73rd minute, the midfielder had 29 touches, completed 21 of his 23 pass attempts and won all six of his duels. It was as if he had never been away. 

Having stuttered in their last two outings - they were held at home by West Brom before the 0-0 result at Newcastle - there must be a temptation to put the 29-year-old in the starting line-up at Southampton on Monday, as Liverpool aim to move clear of Manchester United at the Premier League summit.

Jurgen Klopp, though, is understandably unwilling to take any undue risks with a player who has also had to deal with testing positive for COVID-19 since moving to England.

"We will see. That he could play 20 minutes is special, I would say. He's had only two sessions with the team - that's it," the Liverpool boss said after the 0-0 result at Newcastle. 

"This game gave us an opportunity to do it, because it was mainly about creating and that's obviously his best skill.

"Honestly, the boys who did the job so far did exceptionally well. It's not that we could not survive if he cannot start the next game, but it's very good that he's fit and in contention. I like that a lot." 

Liverpool fans should like it too, considering what they have witnessed in the limited glimpses of the big-name signing from Bayern Munich so far. 

Thiago completed 75 passes of 83 attempted (90.24 per cent) against Chelsea on debut – and that was just in one half. Since Opta began collecting full passing data in 2003-04, his tally sits as the most made by a player to have played a maximum of 45 minutes. 

He was even more accurate with his passing when handed a first start against Everton, finishing up at 92.41 per cent. He also completed 80 per cent of his attempted dribbles in that game, having 99 touches in total at Goodison Park. 

Liverpool's midfield - so often without Fabinho this season, with the Brazilian having to switch to fill in for injuries at centre-back - has performed admirably so far. Yet Thiago provides something different, something a bit special.

It may well be Klopp, with his focus only on the bigger picture, leaves him in reserve once more at Southampton, but the Reds will only benefit from having the playmaker back involved again.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp revelled in the long-awaited return of star midfielder Thiago Alcantara.

Thiago came off the bench in his first appearance since October as Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw by Newcastle United in the Premier League on Wednesday.

The former Bayern Munich man, who sustained a knee injury in a 2-2 draw with Everton on October 17, was a 73rd-minute substitute and managed to make 23 passes with 91.3 per cent accuracy midweek.

"We signed Thiago actually because we thought he was a good player, so you can imagine we would like to have him in the team. That's clear," Klopp told reporters during his post-match news conference.

"What the other boys did in the time he was not available is absolutely incredible. James Milner, for example, tonight played a super game in midfield. Really. So, yes, it's good [he is back], he is a super player. I think of the 20 minutes, 12 round about were brilliant and then he felt the intensity, but that's normal. He trained exactly twice with the team. There is still some physical work to do, still some rhythm to get.

"[Xherdan] Shaqiri is back and that's, by the way, the best news tonight – the boys are back and, as far as I know in the moment, nobody got injured tonight, which is a very important thing. That means we can probably go with the same squad to Southampton."

Back-to-back draws against West Brom and Newcastle has seen Liverpool's lead atop the table reduced to three points, with rivals and second-placed Manchester United boasting a game in hand.

Liverpool failed to score for the first time in 22 Premier League matches, while the defending champions were unable to win their final league game of a calendar year for the first time in seven years.

The Reds' only shot on target in the second half came in the 88th minute via Roberto Firmino's header. Liverpool have now managed just one attempt on target after half-time in each of their last two Premier League games.

"Look, not scoring is a concern if you don't create," Klopp said. "That's how it is. If you create, it's just momentum, it's for now. But if you keep creating then you will score, that's it. I know we will score again, that's not our problem in the moment.

"We needed to show a reaction from the second half against West Brom because in that game we lost the plot a little bit in the second half, it looked for me like we were 1-0 down not 1-0 up. Tonight it was a very good reaction on that, without getting the result. But we all know: you win this game 1-0 and everybody is over the moon. And we should have won it at least 1-0, but we didn't. That's what we have to accept.

"But I can work with this performance, that's important. I can work with the things I saw tonight. We can build on that, we don't have to now change massively in the next three or four days and say, 'OK everything is going wrong, we have to try to compete another way'. That's why I’m OK, that's it."

Thiago Alcantara returned to Liverpool's squad for Wednesday's Premier League clash with Newcastle United following more than two months out.

The 29-year-old sustained a knee injury in the champions' 2-2 draw with Everton on October 17 and has not featured since.

He set a Premier League record on his debut in September when completing 75 passes in the 2-0 win over Chelsea - the most by a player to have played a maximum of 45 minutes since Opta started collecting full passing data at the start of 2003-04.

Thiago's average of 98 passes completed per 90 minutes in the Premier League this term is easily the most of any Liverpool player, with skipper Jordan Henderson (86.8) next on the list.

Despite Jurgen Klopp playing down talk of Thiago returning to action at St James' Park on the eve of the game, the midfielder was included as part of the Reds' 20-man squad.

Thiago, who has made just two appearances in all competitions since joining from Bayern Munich for £25million, was among Liverpool's substitutes.

Klopp made two changes from the 1-1 draw with West Brom on Sunday - Nat Phillips replacing the injured Joel Matip and James Milner coming in for the benched Georginio Wijnaldum.

Liverpool are unbeaten in seven Premier League games against Newcastle, winning each of the last five in a row - never have they won six on the spin in this top-flight fixture.

However, Newcastle are unbeaten in their past four home league meetings against reigning champions, winning two and drawing two.

The hosts showed just one alteration as Callum Wilson returned to the side in place of Miguel Almiron.

 

Thiago Alcantara is unlikely to travel to St James' Park for Liverpool's Premier League clash against Newcastle United as his recovery from a knee injury must not be rushed.

Thiago has made just two Premier League appearances this season, suffering his setback in a 2-2 draw with Everton on October 17, but he returned to first-team training last week.

Jurgen Klopp is not willing to take any risks, however, as Liverpool aim to return to winning ways at Newcastle following a disappointing 1-1 draw with struggling West Brom on Sunday.

"I like watching all my players play," Klopp told reporters.

"With Thiago, he had a few minutes until he got injured, so of course we are looking forward to that but it's not really likely he'll travel."

Liverpool's first game of 2021 sees them take on Southampton at St Mary's on January 4 before visiting Aston Villa in the FA Cup four days later.

Klopp said the severity of Thiago's injury, sustained in a challenge with Richarlison, has enforced a cautious approach to his return to action.

"He needs a few sessions," the manager explained. "He was out a long time after a really harsh challenge.

"There was a proper impact, nothing ruptured, nothing broken, but that still took time. We will not rush it, so I don't know [when he will be back]."

Thiago Alcantara will not be rushed back into action despite returning to Liverpool first-team training, according to boss Jurgen Klopp.

The Spain international has missed more than two months of action since sustaining a knee injury in the Merseyside derby against Everton on October 17.

Having also had a spell out after testing positive for coronavirus, the 29-year-old has only played twice for Liverpool since arriving from Bayern Munich in a deal that could reach £25million.

He started training with the rest of the squad on Wednesday but Klopp confirmed Sunday's Premier League game against West Brom will come too soon for him, although the Reds boss had better news on the possible returns of Xherdan Shaqiri and James Milner.

"Thiago made his first steps back towards team training," he told a media conference. "He's not involved in the full session but has made good steps. Unfortunately, after a long time out we cannot and will not rush it.

"The other guys are closer. Shaqiri trained really well. Milly trained a full session yesterday and today a little bid adapted.

"It's a strange situation for us because we still have two more days before we need to make a decision but I don't know. Thiago will not be involved, he has to be in full training first. He's not too far away, I hope."

After an intense period of six games in 19 days, Liverpool are enjoying an eight-day gap between the 7-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday and the visit of West Brom this weekend.

Klopp says it has allowed his players to undertake more varied training, which he believes will stand them in good stead ahead of the busy Christmas and New Year period.

"This week was a really important week," he added. "Today was the first 'minus three [days]' session since we started again, so full 11 on 11, tactical stuff, everything in, pressing, counter-pressing, all the stuff. We haven't had that.

"So, this is the most similar session you can have to playing a game. The boys are connected, the boys are important and we will use them.

"Against Tottenham we didn't make a substitution because they were all without rhythm and the game was really intense. They are now all a step further."

Liverpool will be quietly confident of extending their unbeaten run in the top flight to 11 games against a side who have won just once in 14 outings so far this season.

Baggies boss Sam Allardyce, however, is unbeaten in his last three away Premier League games against the champions and was the last opposition manager to win at Anfield in the competition, doing so with Palace in April 2017.

With that in mind, Klopp is taking nothing for granted and expects a tough game against the league's 19th-placed side.

"Of course, it's a tricky one," he said. "We analysed it this morning. It's a mix of when Sam was at Everton and then his first game at West Brom against Aston Villa.

"I expect a tough opponent, well organised, don't make a big fuss of possession and it will be a proper fight. Sam is a proven specialist for organising teams for these kinds of fights. A tough game."

Thiago Alcantara is edging closer to a Liverpool return after rejoining first-team training.

The Spain international has missed more than two months of action since sustaining a knee injury in the Merseyside derby against Everton on October 17.

Having also had a spell out after testing positive for coronavirus, the 29-year-old has only played twice for Liverpool since arriving from Bayern Munich in a deal that could reach £25million.

After a period of individual training, Thiago took to social media on Wednesday to confirm he had started training with the rest of the squad, posting on Twitter: "Back with the lads."

Thiago made an instant impact on his debut against Chelsea on September 20.

He completed 75 passes of 83 attempted (90.4 per cent), more than any Chelsea player over the course of the contest, despite only coming on at half-time.

Since Opta began collecting full passing data in 2003-04, that total was the most made by a player to have played a maximum of 45 minutes.

Liverpool host West Brom at Anfield on Sunday before travelling to Newcastle United three days later.

Jurgen Klopp says midfielder Thiago Alcantara is getting "closer and closer" to returning for Liverpool. 

Thiago has missed two months of action since sustaining a knee injury in the Merseyside derby against Everton on October 17. 

Having also had a spell out after testing positive for coronavirus, the 29-year-old has only played twice for Liverpool since arriving from Bayern Munich in a deal that could reach £25million. 

Ahead of Saturday's away Premier League game with Crystal Palace, Klopp was asked if Thiago, who is back in individual training, was eager to return soon. 

"He is, he is," said Klopp. "We already made jokes here; I said, 'I think we should sign Thiago for January!' 

"He gets closer and closer and he is in a good way. 

"But we will not rush it, we cannot rush it and he will not [either] because he is not allowed to rush it. 

"Of course, it is nice having him on the pitch, training, doing a lot of stuff, but he is not in team training yet and that's actually the final step. 

"We will see how this weekend looks with him on the pitch and then next week [see if he] can be in team training. 

"I don't know in the moment 100 per cent. There are a few tests, he has to pass a few tests on the pitch until we make that decision. 

"That is not only the case for him. With Millie [James Milner] it will be similar, with Shaq [Xherdan Shaqiri] it will be similar - if I forgot somebody it is not because I am disrespectful, it is just a lot of players are injured in the moment."

The dramatic late win over Tottenham at Anfield on Wednesday means Liverpool are top of the Premier League table despite their injury woes. 

Palace can be a tough nut to crack but Liverpool have had few issues in recent years, winning the last six league meetings between the sides, as well as their last five away top-flight matches with Roy Hodgson's men. 

The Reds have scored in 14 consecutive league matches against Palace, who are struggling defensively this season and have kept just one clean sheet in their last 21 top-flight games. 

However, with four draws and one loss in their last five league away matches, champions Liverpool are looking to avoid going six road games without a win for the first time in almost a decade. 

Liverpool last had such a run in January 2011.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski were named in the attack for the 2020 FIFA FIFPro Men's World11.

The trio were all finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player award and so were unsurprisingly included in the FIFPro Men's World11.

The chief shock elsewhere in the team saw Alisson preferred in goal to Manuel Neuer.

Neuer, who captained Bayern Munich to the treble, had earlier been named The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper, beating Alisson and Jan Oblak to the award.

The Germany skipper had said: "It's one of the best years of my career, of course. We were so confident with our team and it's amazing what we have done in this year, 2020, especially in the summer when we played together in Lisbon [in the Champions League]."

In a team voted for by the players, Alisson was joined by Liverpool team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara.

Thiago spent the majority of the year with Bayern, who were represented by Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich as well as Lewandowski.

Sergio Ramos and Kevin De Bruyne completed the line-up.


FIFA FIFPro Men's World11: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Sergio Ramos, Alphonso Davies; Joshua Kimmich, Kevin De Bruyne, Thiago Alcantara; Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski were named in the attack for the 2020 FIFA FIFPro Men's World XI.

The trio were all finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player award and so were unsurprisingly included in the World XI.

The chief shock elsewhere in the team saw Alisson preferred in goal to Manuel Neuer.

Neuer, who captained Bayern Munich to the treble, had earlier been named The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper, beating Alisson and Jan Oblak to the award.

The Germany skipper had said: "It's one of the best years of my career, of course. We were so confident with our team and it's amazing what we have done in this year, 2020, especially in the summer when we played together in Lisbon [in the Champions League]."

In a team voted for by the players, Alisson was joined by Liverpool team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara.

Thiago spent the majority of the year with Bayern, who were represented by Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich as well as Lewandowski.

Sergio Ramos and Kevin De Bruyne completed the line-up.


FIFA FIFPro Men's World XI: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Sergio Ramos, Alphonso Davies; Joshua Kimmich, Kevin De Bruyne, Thiago Alcantara; Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo.

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