Liverpool midfielder Wataru Endo believes victory in the Carabao Cup final will provide the extra energy required to maintain their challenge on three other fronts.

Sunday’s meeting is a repeat of the Reds’ 2022 encounter with Chelsea at Wembley which Jurgen Klopp’s side eventually won 11-10 on penalties with only one player – goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga – missing.

However, only four of that Liverpool starting XI are likely to be in this weekend’s team – Mohamed Salah would be a fifth but is currently doubtful with a minor issue after making his comeback from a hamstring problem at Brentford – as a result of some high-profile departures and a raft of injuries.

The extent of the injury crisis was laid bare in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Luton, in which Klopp named a bench with three defenders and four academy players, and should that situation continue it could seriously hamper Liverpool’s bid to contend in the Premier League – which they lead – the FA Cup and Europa League.

But Endo said nothing gives players a boost like winning a trophy and for a large number of the Reds’ team – the Japan international included – Sunday will be their first chance at the club.

“If we could win this first one I think it would have a really positive impact on the other competitions we’re competing in,” said the £16million summer signing.

“Winning at Wembley would give us extra energy for the challenges ahead. I’m so excited to play there. It will be my first time at such a special stadium.

“It would mean a lot to me. It would be my first title with Liverpool and I’m focused on doing everything I can to help the team win the final.

“The manager has spoken to us about staying positive and needing to show that we are Liverpool. We did that against Luton.

“We don’t think too much about injured players, we just focus on the next game in front of us.”

Sunday is the first significant milestone in Klopp’s long goodbye after he announced his decision to leave at the end of the season.

Endo was away at the Asian Cup when the news broke but the 31-year-old, who has proved his critics wrong after being viewed as an emergency stop-gap holding midfielder, is keen to repay the manager’s faith.

“I was sad to hear about that. I really enjoy playing for him and playing football the way he plays,” he said.

“It’s disappointing but I really want us to achieve titles for him before he goes.

“I’ve only played for Jurgen for one season. Others have been here a lot longer so maybe they have more emotion but he has helped me so much.”

 

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After a tough introduction to English football the former Stuttgart midfielder has cemented his place as the team’s anchor, fulfilling a role which Alexis Mac Allister had been asked to do after Fabinho departed to Saudi Arabia in the summer.

 

“It’s hard to play for Liverpool. There’s always a lot of pressure,” Endo added.

“Playing in the Premier League is tough but this is something I wanted for a long time and I try to make sure I enjoy it and do my best every time.

“I feel like I’ve developed over the course of the season and that has helped to give me confidence.”

Bayer Leverkusen head coach Xabi Alonso has insisted there is “nothing new to say” regarding fresh speculation over his future.

Alonso has been heavily linked with the Liverpool job since Jurgen Klopp announced last month he would step down at the end of the campaign, but the Premier League club now face competition from Bayern Munich.

It was revealed on Wednesday that current Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel will leave his position at the conclusion of the season – increasing the scrutiny on Alonso.

The former Liverpool and Bayern midfielder has enjoyed an excellent campaign in charge of Leverkusen, establishing an eight-point lead at the Bundesliga summit and guiding them through to the last 16 of the Europa League ahead of Friday’s league visit of Mainz.

Alonso faced the media on Thursday and started his press conference by shutting down speculation over his future.

“Maybe you have some questions about my future, but I’m sorry, I have nothing new to say. I wanted to say that beforehand,” he told a press conference, via Bild.

“Right now I’m the (Leverkusen) coach. That’s for sure. I have nothing new to say for the future. We will see. It’s normal that there are questions, but it’s off topic now. Now is not the time for me to talk much about it.”

Asked if Bayern had contacted him since the Tuchel announcement, Alonso replied: “I understand the question, but I have to say again that I have nothing new to say. It’s just hypothetical.”

 

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The 42-year-old also insisted it had been a normal week for his squad and claimed he was currently preparing to be Leverkusen boss next season given his contract runs until 2026.

He said: “I’m assuming that right now.

“This week was normal. It was quiet for us. We had three training sessions. That is normal.

“I know that it is my goal, it is my job, to be successful with the team. This is my work. We are in a very good situation right now. We want to continue like this. That’s enough for me.”

Following Jayden Danns’ brief debut appearance for Liverpool in their home win against Luton, visiting boss Rob Edwards, in conversation with Jurgen Klopp, was seen mouthing: “I played against his dad!”

Striker Danns, 18, is the son of former Crystal Palace, Bolton and Bury midfielder Neil Danns and is not the only offspring of a once-famous footballer to have made a breakthrough this season.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five more young talents with dads you may remember.

Bobby Clark

Liverpool’s academy has more teenagers with famous fathers, including Bobby Clark, son of former Newcastle and Fulham midfielder Lee. Bobby, 19, made his Premier League debut against Bournemouth at Anfield last season, coming on as an 83rd-minute substitute with the Reds leading 9-0. He repeated that feat this season in a 4-0 win on the south coast and has come off the bench three more times in the league this term, including late on against the Hatters on Wednesday night. Bobby moved to Liverpool from Newcastle – the club where dad Lee started his playing career – in August 2021. Lee went on to join the Magpies’ arch-rivals Sunderland before returning to the Premier League with Fulham in 2001 after helping the Cottagers to promotion. He later moved into management, most notably with Huddersfield and Birmingham. Lewis Koumas, son of former Tranmere and West Brom midfielder Jason, and Keyrol Figueroa, whose dad Maynor made 214 Premier League appearances for Wigan and Hull, are also part of the Reds’ youth set-up.

Gio Reyna

He may only be 21, but Sunderland-born Gio Reyna moved to Nottingham Forest with almost 100 senior appearances at German giants Borussia Dortmund under his belt. Gio is the son of former Rangers, Sunderland and Manchester City midfielder Claudio Reyna and is a United States international, just like his dad. Midfielder Gio joined Forest in January on a loan deal until the end of the season and has made two substitute appearances so far.

Jack Hinshelwood

Adam Hinshelwood may not be a household name to many football fans outside of Brighton, but son Jack is following in his footsteps. Adam made his Seagulls debut under the management of his uncle, Martin, in 2002, when the club were playing in the second tier. A central defender, Adam spent seven years as a player at Brighton and has managed Worthing since 2017. Midfielder Jack, 18, made his Premier League debut on the last day of last season, coming on as an 89th-minute substitute. He started his first league game in September – a 6-1 defeat at Aston Villa – and scored the first of his three goals this term against Brentford in December to secure a 2-1 win.

Bailey Cadamarteri

Danny Cadamarteri hit the headlines when he scored a stunning second goal for Everton in a 2-0 Merseyside derby victory against Liverpool in 1997. Unfortunately his career failed to ignite after that, as he left the Toffees in 2002 having scored just 13 goals in almost 100 appearances. Danny’s son Bailey, also a striker, has made an impact at Sheffield Wednesday this season aged just 18. He made his Championship debut in November and scored his first senior goal in a 3-1 win against Blackburn at the start of December. He was named the EFL’s Young Player of the Month after two more goals that month and now has four to his name for the season. Danny’s younger son Caelan-Kole is also making a name for himself in the Owls’ youth teams.

Tommy Doyle

Tommy Doyle comes from fine stock. Although his father Scott was not a professional footballer, the 22-year-old’s grandparents made over 750 appearances between them for Manchester City, with Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe winning the First Division title, FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup with the club in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Midfielder Tommy is also a Manchester City player but is currently on a season-long loan at Wolves, who have the option to buy him this summer. The England Under-21 international has played 20 times in all competitions for Gary O’Neil’s side so far this term.

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk admits the team was probably guilty of trying too hard to compensate for the absence of a host of star players in the 4-1 victory over Luton.

Forwards Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah were the latest added to an absentee list, which had grown to 11 senior players and left manager Jurgen Klopp short of options, certainly of match-winners, as his bench comprised three defenders and four academy players.

The likes of Harvey Elliott and Cody Gakpo, and to a lesser extent Luis Diaz, all struggled up front in the first half, but four goals in an impressive second-half comeback after going behind in the 12th minute re-established a four-point advantage at the top of the Premier League.

Klopp’s side have won now 22 points from losing positions this season, more than any other team.

“First half with the very first chance (for Diaz) we could have changed the game, but we were a bit rushed in the final third,” said Van Dijk.

“Obviously the way we turned it around was credit to the boys.

“Staying calm is the most difficult thing to do, especially in the situation where we are at; everyone wants to show themselves and play their best game ever, and you have to try to stay calm and find the right solution.

“The first half was a bit rushed and that’s why we struggled a little bit in that sense. Being 1-0 down is never nice, but the way we bounced back is good to see.”

Elliott, on his 100th appearance, scored the team’s 100th goal of the season with the late fourth to end his night on a high after coming in for some vociferous criticism from the crowd.

However, Klopp – who remonstrated with a fan who appeared to target Elliott after yet another pass went astray in the first half – defended the 20-year-old.

“Top performance. And Harvey is a top player; 100 games for Liverpool FC in not the worst period of the club’s history, where you cannot afford players who (just) play the position, that’s a proper sign,” he added.

“He had not a great first half. There was a pass with Lucho (Diaz); I saw he wants to play the pass instead of maybe he can go in a one-on-one situation.

“But the reaction in the second half is the main difference, that’s the thing. That made this performance the performance and I’m so happy for him.

“I don’t lose patience in these moments, I know that it’s a challenge for young boys.

“When everything is great, they are super talents. When things don’t go well, you have to show up. And that’s what he’s learning more and more.

“And with 100 games under his belt, we all know he will definitely play another 100, 200, 300 – if you ask him, 500 – for this club.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp evoked memories of their famous win over Barcelona in 2019 during their “thunderstorm” second-half comeback to beat Luton 4-1.

Trailing to Chiedozie Ogbene’s 12th-minute header, Klopp’s side were a different prospect after the break with Virgil van Dijk, Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott bringing up 100 goals for the season.

While it by no means matched the magnitude of their Champions League semi-final comeback after losing the first leg 3-0 to the Catalan giants, it was significant in terms of the title race – re-establishing a four-point lead over Manchester City – and the invigorating atmosphere which the team will undoubtedly have to lean on during the run-in.

“Tonight is one of those nights where it is difficult to stop talking. I am so happy,” said Klopp, who was without 11 first-team players including forwards Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez who remain doubtful for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Chelsea.

“We had to ignore the fact we were 1-0 down and use the things that are good and improve the counter-press. The second half was a thunderstorm. Wow.

“I will mention this game from now quite a few times. I promised my team a few months ago that I would never mention or use the Barcelona game as an example and I used it again today so I broke my promise.

“Just because before the game, it was kind of similar. Many players missing, stuff like this. The team that time ignored the fact who is missing and I want us to ignore the fact who is missing.

“That is difficult because the public got the whole knowledge of who is missing only tonight. It’s like… I needed a few minutes to process it when I got all the news.

“But from that moment on, when you know how you can deal with it and sort it for this game, it feels really good. That is what I wanted the boys to show.

“This is an example tonight. This is their Barcelona, now against Luton. A difficult situation, plenty of reasons to give up in moments: not tonight and I saw only a super group fighting.

“If you don’t limit yourself with bad thoughts, you can fly. And that’s what the boys did.”

Luton head coach Rob Edwards, whose side were impressive in the first half, admitted scoring so early just made their task harder.

“We just made them angry,” he said. “Overall it was a really good first half. Second half I thought we saw Anfield, saw Liverpool, saw their full-throttle football. Their counter-pressing football was amazing.

“In the end, it was a great learning curve for us to see what the best looks like. I know they had some players missing, but their second-half performance was like the best out there.

“I thought we were very, very good. They were better.”

A stirring second-half comeback saw Premier League leaders Liverpool restore their four-point advantage at the top and avoid one of the shocks of the season with a 4-1 victory over Luton.

Chiedozie Ogbene’s early header was only the 11th league goal a visiting team had scored at Anfield this season but for a long time it looked like producing another twist in the title race as the depleted hosts struggled to find their best form.

But headers from Virgil van Dijk and Cody Gakpo within the space of two minutes turned things around before Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott fired home to ease them away from the clutches of second-placed Manchester City.

Any slip up, even at this stage, could have significant implications in what is currently a three-way battle and without this victory City would have had the chance to go top at Bournemouth on Saturday as Liverpool are otherwise engaged in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea.

That Wembley encounter meant no risks were taken with Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez, who are both carrying knocks, but with injuries had already ruling out nine other players it left Jurgen Klopp with very few options.

What the first half, in particular, showed was that stand-ins Elliott and Gakpo lacked half-a-yard of pace both over the ground and in their passing.

They were not helped by some poor decision-making by Diaz, the one regular starter in the forward line, who in only the third minute delayed his shot too long as he tried to manoeuvre it on to his right foot and then shot wide with only goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski to beat.

Luton stunned Anfield by taking the lead in the 12th minute. Tahith Chong received a return pass from Cauley Woodrow before shooting from a narrow angle and the ball squeezed under Caoimhin Kelleher and bounced up to the far post where Ogbene headed into an empty goal.

Luton’s gameplan was then to try to attack the space behind the full-backs but limit Liverpool’s options by going man-for-man in defence, which often left them two on two.

The last visiting team to win a league game at Anfield – Leeds in October 2022 – did the same.

And Luton also worked harder – Albert Sambi Lokonga easing Elliott off the ball as he looked to shoot from Gakpo’s flick-on – and smarter as the hosts resorted to firing in long-range shots.

Elliott’s radar was off from two breakaways as his passes to Gakpo were three feet short and two yards too long as the final ball continued to elude them and frustrations threatened to boil over with Klopp exploding in rage at a fan near the front of the main stand, presumably for his negative reaction to a third mis-placed Elliott pass.

The early omens in the second half were not much better as Diaz fired straight at Teden Mengi but when Gakpo’s near-post shot was turned behind Van Dijk powered home a header from Alexis Mac Allister’s 56th-minute corner.

Two minutes later it was Gakpo producing a brilliant leap to launch Conor Bradley’s cross past Kaminski, who had brilliantly saved Bradley’s deflected shot with his legs.

The Luton goalkeeper did even better to repel another powerful Van Dijk header as Liverpool turned the screw, with substitute Andy Robertson charging forward to tee up Diaz for the third.

In doing so he became the fifth Liverpool player to reach double figures, which is the best of any team in Europe’s top five leagues, with Elliott grabbing his second of the season late on as Luton remained in the bottom three.

What the papers say

Liverpool have identified Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi as a transfer target this summer, the Telegraph reports. Manchester United are also interested in the 23-year-old.

In an effort to replace Kylian Mbappe, the i says Paris St Germain are interested in Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Napoli striker Victor Osimhen and Barcelona midfielder Gavi.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Harry Kane: Football Transfers says Manchester United could once again try and lure the Bayern Munich striker and England captain to the club.

Gleison Bremer: Manchester United are also interested in the 26-year-old defender, currently at Juventus, who has been valued at £59.8million, Italian outlet Calciomercato says.

Chelsea and Liverpool will meet once again in the Carabao Cup final on February 25.

The Wembley clash will be the third final between the clubs in the tournament’s history.

Liverpool are the competition’s most successful team with nine victories while Chelsea who have lifted the trophy five times.

Here, PA news agency takes a look at their previous two finals.

2005: Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool aet – Millennium Stadium

Chelsea lifted their first silverware under Jose Mourinho at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which hosted English cup finals between 2001 to 2006 while the new Wembley was being built. Liverpool opened the scoring inside the first minute of the game after John Arne Riise volleyed home a cross from Fernando Morientes.

The game stayed 1-0 until Steven Gerrard’s attempted headed clearance went into the back of his own net.

Goals from Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman gave Chelsea a 3-1 lead in extra-time and they held on despite Antonio Nunez quickly pulling one back.

2022: Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool (Liverpool win 11-10 on pens) – Wembley

Liverpool were chasing a quadruple and ticked off the first trophy after a marathon penalty shootout at Wembley. The game remained goalless for 120 minutes but Liverpool prevailed 11-10 on spot-kicks after Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga missed his penalty.

The two sides would meet again later in the season in the FA Cup final. This was the first time that the same teams met in both the League Cup final and the FA Cup final of the same season since Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday in 1993.

That game also remained 0-0 after extra-time and Liverpool won on penalties again when Kostas Tsimikas scored his penalty after Mason Mount had his saved by Allison Becker.

But Jurgen Klopp’s side fell short in their pursuit of both the Premier League and Champions League trophies as their quadruple hopes were dashed.

Familiarity, so the saying goes, breeds contempt, but for Liverpool and Chelsea it has resulted in a war of attrition.

The two teams have met 17 times since September 2018 and, on the three occasions those have been finals, each one has gone to penalties, with Liverpool victorious in all three.

And, while Sunday’s reunion at Wembley is a repeat of the 2022 Carabao Cup final, which had an epic shoot-out settled by Reds goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher scoring his side’s 11th attempt and Kepa Arrizabalaga missing his, there are few similarities with that afternoon.

Injuries and key departures mean Liverpool, the record nine-time winners, will be able to field just five of the starting XI from that day; Chelsea can put out just two after a huge churn of players during a billion-pound spending spree in the interim.

The final represents the first moment of significance in Jurgen Klopp’s long goodbye after his decision to step down at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have burned through three managers in Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and Frank Lampard before giving Mauricio Pochettino the chance to arrest their gradual decline.

And it has been a decline.

When the pair met two years ago Liverpool were second in the Premier League table, chasing Manchester City in a brilliant title race which they lost by a point despite racking up 92 of them, while Chelsea were third, albeit 10 points behind.

But, despite their recent upturn in form, this time the Stamford Bridge side are 22 points adrift of the table-topping Reds in 10th.

Liverpool, competing on four fronts, are favourites, having lost just twice to domestic opponents, and, last month’s blip at Arsenal aside, Klopp has restored his squad’s competitiveness, even if they are not quite hitting the heights of that 2021/22 season.

However, injuries have hit at the wrong time, with influential players like full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, forward Diogo Jota, midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai and goalkeeper Alisson Becker already ruled out of the showpiece.

That may be just the opening Chelsea need after they were ripped apart 4-1 at Anfield barely a month ago.

There followed a 4-2 home defeat to Wolves four days later, after which they became one of the few teams to win at Villa Park while earning a creditable draw at Manchester City last weekend.

They appear to have played themselves into some form and Pochettino will look to build on that as he seeks to redress the balance against Klopp, against whom he has won just once in 12 meetings, and gain a small measure of revenge for the Champions League final defeat in Madrid in 2019 as Tottenham manager.

The Argentinian is desperate to end his trophy drought with English clubs in his seventh season in the country and silence some of the critics who are just starting to question his credentials again, having failed to spark a revival at Stamford Bridge, despite the massive investment in the playing squad.

That January Anfield defeat ended a run of seven successive draws between the two sides and, with all factors considered, that points to another close Wembley encounter – and possibly penalties yet again.

There will be no shortage of sub-plots when Chelsea take on Liverpool for the first silverware of the season in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Each coming off tumultuous campaigns last season, fortunes this season have diverged with one challenging on all fronts whilst the other labours to rediscover former glories.

The PA news agency looks at the talking points.

Liverpool’s injury list

It was confirmed on Tuesday that Diogo Jota and Alisson would be out for significant periods while Curtis Jones also joins Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip on the absent list for Sunday.

There is no guarantee that Darwin Nunez, who like Jones and Jota was withdrawn in Saturday’s win over Brentford, or Dominik Szoboszlai will be fit as Jurgen Klopp’s squad risks being stretched thin on the run-in, beginning with Sunday’s final.

Chelsea’s young team coming of age

Mauricio Pochettino has talked about the importance of success in the Carabao Cup for the development of his players, who with an average age of just over 23 comprise the youngest squad in the Premier League.

After the semi-final win over Middlesbrough he stated Sunday’s final means more to Chelsea’s current crop than the club’s trophy-laden history would suggest, and that victory at Wembley could accelerate their development. Fresh from an encouraging performance in drawing with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, lifting the cup on Sunday could be a watershed moment.

Salah back and in form

Klopp was without Mohamed Salah for almost seven weeks prior to his return to the team as a first-half substitute against Brentford, but his performance at the Gtech Stadium saw him hit the ground running.

An excellent assist for Alexis Mac Allister’s goal that made it 2-0 was followed minutes later by a fine finish of his own to show his manager it is not all bad news on the selection front. It will be a tonic to Klopp’s injury concerns if the Egyptian can help his team and himself to an eighth trophy of his Liverpool career on Sunday.

Chelsea’s best hope of Europe

With a top-six league finish looking out of reach it seems increasingly likely that cup success is Pochettino’s best hope of marking his first season by leading the club back into Europe after a year away.

They still have the FA Cup to play for, with a fifth-round meeting at home to Championship high-fliers Leeds next week, but a win at Wembley on Sunday will ensure at least a place in the Europa Conference League. It may not be a return to the Champions League, a competition the team won was recently as 2021, but it would be progress after a turbulent 18 months on and off the pitch.

Liverpool head to their second Carabao Cup final in three seasons this weekend looking to extend their own competition record of nine victories.

Here, the PA news agency details how they got there.

Fourth round: v Leicester (h) 3-1, September 27

Dominik Szoboszlai’s brilliant strike from the edge of the penalty area was the highlight of a second-half comeback after falling behind to Kasey McAteer’s third-minute goal. Cody Gakpo’s shot on the turn levelled things up just after the break, Szoboszlai smashed home and Diogo Jota’s cheeky backheel clinched victory.

Fifth round: v Bournemouth (a) 2-1, November 1

Darwin Nunez’s goal was worthy of winning any cup tie on a filthy night on the south coast. Gakpo opened the scoring with a scruffy close-range finish only for Justin Kluivert’s far-post header to level things up just past the hour. Nunez’s poor first touch was jeered by home fans but he made them pay by cutting in from the left touchline to whip a vicious shot over Andrei Radu.

Quarter-finals: v West Ham (h) 5-1, December 20

Gakpo made it three in as many cup ties but Curtis Jones was the real star with two goals. Szoboszlai opened the scoring with another long-range strike and Mohamed Salah scored a trademark breakaway before Jones’ driving run completed the scoring. Jarrod Bowen’s curling effort had briefly made it 3-1.

Semi-finals, first leg v Fulham (h) 2-1, January 10

Gakpo’s winner was his fourth successive goalscoring appearance in the competition and his tidy near-post effort gave Liverpool an advantage to take to Craven Cottage. Jones’ deflected shot from the edge of the area in the second half cancelled out Willian’s opener and Gakpo swept home in the 71st minute to turn things around.

Semi-finals, second leg v Fulham (a) 1-1, January 24

Luis Diaz’s early deflected shot beat Bernd Leno at his near post and set Jurgen Klopp’s side on their way to Wembley. Issa Diop’s quick improvisation diverted home a cross with his thigh but they could not make further inroads.

Liverpool’s injury crisis continues to deepen with forward Diogo Jota ruled out for “months”, while there is no return date pencilled in for midfielder Curtis Jones or goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Jota and Jones were added to a list which now extends to nine senior players unavailable and is less than ideal with the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea to come on Sunday as the club continues to fight on four fronts.

“We have Diogo with a knee issue ruled out – it will obviously take months,” said manager Jurgen Klopp ahead of the midweek visit of Luton.

“Not available are Ali (Alisson), muscle injury – we don’t know how long it takes but it will take some time to come back – and Curtis with a bone/ligament issue is ruled out.

“Then we have the others where we think we will deal with it day by day. Longer term like Trent (Alexander-Arnold) and Dom (Dominik Szoboszlai) are on their way back but are not in team training yet so they are not available.”

Other players absent include midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Stefan Bajcetic and centre-back Joel Matip (ACL), while striker Darwin Nunez was replaced at half-time of Saturday’s win at Brentford as a precaution.

Jurgen Klopp emphasised Caoimhin Kelleher’s importance to Liverpool’s trophy hunt in the ongoing absence of first-choice goalkeeper Alisson.

The Republic of Ireland international impressed in Saturday’s 4-1 win at Brentford that ensured the Reds stayed top of the Premier League.

It was his second conservative start, with Alisson having missed the last two games – first with illness and then a muscle injury.

With 14 appearances so far in all competitions this has been by far the 25-year-old’s busiest season at Anfield, surpassing his previous best of eight games in 2021/22.

Kelleher is set to play in next weekend’s Carabao Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley having being selected in each of the team’s five matches in the competition.

He previously kept goal when Liverpool beat Sunday’s opponents on penalties in the final of the 2021/22 edition.

“He was outstanding (against Brentford),” said Klopp. “I don’t know exactly who is the number one for Ireland but if they have a better goalkeeper, respect. He’s outstanding. This year we gave him more games than he had previously. It’s well deserved.

“We need him. We need him with rhythm. Now the situation around Alisson shows that makes absolute sense. We will see how long Alisson is out, but Caoimhin is exceptional. (On Saturday) he had an A+ performance.”

Klopp said he had not previously planned to play Kelleher at the Gtech Stadium despite Sunday’s approaching showpiece at Wembley.

With the extent of Alisson’s injury currently unknown it is possible that the understudy will play when Liverpool welcome Luton to Anfield on Wednesday.

The Brazilian did not travel to Brentford, instead remaining at the club’s Melwood training complex to receive treatment.

“Alisson was ill last week and is injured this week,” said Klopp. “There’s absolutely no other ideas behind it. If Alisson would not have been ill and would not have been injured now, he would have played.

“We’ve had enough games to have a rhythm. Goalkeepers are a different breed to other people. It was not in my plan to play (Kelleher) at Luton.

“We play the game with all focus and attention. I don’t think about other things. It’s the only way I know.”

Klopp is currently dealing with an extensive injury list, made worse after Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones both left the stadium on Saturday on crutches.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominik Szoboszlai are also amongst those unavailable in the coming weeks, while Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip are longer-term absentees.

Jurgen Klopp praised an “exceptional” Liverpool performance in defeating Brentford 4-1 at the Gtech Stadium to consolidate their position at the top of the Premier League.

Mohamed Salah scored on his first appearance since returning from a hamstring tear picked up on duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, with Darwin Nunez, Alexis Mac Allister and Cody Gakpo also on target.

But the win came at a cost as Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota were both lost to what looked significant injuries in the first half.

Jones left the stadium on crutches after injuring his ankle and Jota departed the pitch on a stretcher, whilst Nunez was also withdrawn with a knock.

Of Jones’ injury, Klopp said: “We have to see how (bad). We don’t know that yet. The fact Curtis cannot play on tells you it must be something because he would have played on at all costs.

“Diogo looks worse. I didn’t see it back but I heard the pictures didn’t look great. We have to see there.

“Darwin we took off because he said he felt a little something but it was enough for us to push the break, so we took him off.

“The performance level could have dropped (after the injuries), but it was the other way around.

“We played an exceptional game, by far the best game we’ve played at Brentford. Dealing with all the specific situations they create, and being as dominated you can somehow be, be calm in the right moments, be direct in the right moments, use their man-marking, play against the line. All these kind of things. I saw a top game.”

The league leaders went in front 10 minutes before half-time with a fine goal on the counter, Jota’s header setting up Nunez, who finished with a superb chip over the advancing goalkeeper Mark Flekken.

Mac Allister made it two after 55 minutes, showing exquisite close control to beat his defender after being set up by a deft cross from Salah and poking the ball with his toe into the corner.

Liverpool were by now rampant and Salah capped his comeback with a goal of his own, outmuscling Nathan Collins to put the result behind doubt.

Ivan Toney replied for Brentford with his fourth goal since returning from an eight-month ban for gambling offences but the reprieve was momentary, and five minutes from time Gakpo got free in the box and stroked it past Flekken to ensure Liverpool would finish the weekend still on top of the Premier League table.

Liverpool face Luton at Anfield in the league on Wednesday before attentions turn to the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea next Sunday.

Klopp was buoyed by the performance of the returning Salah, but acknowledged the loss of Jones and Jota creates a problem ahead of the trip to Wembley.

“Mo played the first game for weeks,” said Klopp. “He could have had a hat-trick. The goal he scored was absolutely outstanding. Cody’s goal was absolutely outstanding as well.

“You can count the games coming up. It would be helpful if we had a bit more than one (player) for each position. But it’s all fine. That’s the situation and we cannot change it.

“I can’t remember one day here that it was easy, no problems at all.  We have problems. We don’t know exactly how big they are. As long as we have 11 players we will go for it.”

Brentford boss Thomas Frank reflected on a game that got away from his side after they conceded the first goal.

“I thought we were brilliant the first 35 minutes, the best team, created a lot of good moments,” he said. “We should have showed more coolness to create bigger chances.

“We concede the first goal, we knew we were facing a team who are probably the best in the world at transitions.

“It was the first goal we’ve conceded from an offensive set-piece in two years.”

Mohamed Salah scored on his Premier League return as Liverpool eased to a 4-1 win at Brentford.

Coming off the bench for his first appearance since injuring a hamstring on duty with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations, he netted his side’s third goal moments after making a brilliant assist for Alexis Mac Allister to make it 2-0.

Darwin Nunez had opened the scoring with a superbly-taken chip to cap a wonderful counter attack in the first half as Jurgen Klopp’s league leaders ensure they would finish the weekend still on top.

Ivan Toney continued his goalscoring form since returning from his gambling ban to briefly give Brentford hope at 3-1.

It was a fleeting moment of optimism, quickly extinguished when substitute Cody Gakpo stroked home Liverpool’s fourth in the closing minutes.

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