Jurgen Klopp sweats on a new injury blow for Oxlade-Chamberlain
DOHA – As the crowd gathered around Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jurgen Klopp and Jordan Henderson stood a few yards away and looked on with increasing concern.
Andy Massey, Liverpool’s doctor, was moving his hands around Oxlade-Chamberlain’s right ankle and checking pressure points but the midfielder was in huge discomfort. First he put his hands across his face then he would whack the turf in despair.
Henderson, in between slugs of an energy drink, had worry written all over his face. Klopp, his emotional manager, was rather easy to read. As a stretcher was brought on, the German lifted his baseball cap and muttered: “Oh f***ing hell.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain did not need to be lifted from the pitch after being caught accidentally by Flamengo captain Everton Ribiero, instead walking gingerly back to the dressing room, but the implications were clear and he later reappeared on crutches.
This player, unfortunately, has had enough major injuries to span two careers and having battled back from horrific knee ligament damage earlier this year, the last thing anyone wants to consider is another prolonged spell on the sidelines.
Concern for the individual is paramount with Klopp, who forms tight bonds with his squad, but there will be other spin-offs from this 75th minute episode once the test results return to determine what damage Oxlade-Chamberlain has suffered.
At this point, you would say his chances of appearing in either of the Christmas fixtures — at Leicester on Boxing Day and against Wolves in seven days — are slim. Beyond that, it is impossible to say how long he will be absent.
What we can say with certainty, however, is that fitness issues are putting obstacles in Klopp’s way. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita started this tense contest in the desert because Gini Wijnaldum (hamstring damage) and Fabinho (ankle ligaments) were unavailable. Throw into the equation that Dejan Lovren (groin) and Joel Matip (knee) are also out until the New Year and you begin to understand why Klopp is so anxious about losing any more key personnel.
What Klopp needs is those who have been on the periphery through the first half of the season to step forward and make telling contributions. He would certainly have wished for Keita, the £52.75million midfielder, to have settled this clash.
With Flamengo unable to get out of their penalty area in the fifth minute, Keita should really have rammed home the advantage. As it was, he got his lines wrong and his shot sailed high over the bar.
In fairness, Keita played with discipline as Flamengo came back into the battle and a measure of Klopp’s gratitude was evident when he substituted him in extra-time. Klopp was smiling broadly at that point as his team led.
How long the smile lasts depends on the Oxlade-Chamberlain bulletin.Daily Mail