November 16, 2017 / 11:47 AM / a year ago

All-action Lallana returns to give Klopp selection headache

LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool look likely to have a full set of attacking options for the first time this season when they face Southampton at Anfield on Saturday.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Liverpool vs NK Maribor - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - November 1, 2017 Liverpool's Adam Lallana watches the game from the sideline REUTERS/Phil Noble

Injuries have blighted Liverpool’s start but Adam Lallana is back in full training after damaging his thigh pre-season and is expected to feature while another injury concern, Sadio Mane, also trained on Wednesday after tweaking a hamstring on international duty with Senegal.

Philippe Coutinho, who last appeared for Liverpool on Oct. 22, came through an untroubled 68 minutes in Brazil’s friendly against England on Tuesday.

With Jordan Henderson also fit after missing Liverpool’s last match, the 4-1 win over West Ham United, manager Juergen Klopp may have a full hand for the first time since adding Mohamed Salah to his attacking armoury in the summer.

Lallana’s return is particularly welcome since the England midfielder has been so influential in Klopp’s two seasons in charge at Anfield.

The sight of Lallana running incessantly in the German’s first game away at Tottenham Hotspur before collapsing in his manager’s arms when substituted endeared him to Liverpool supporters and the manager quickly saw his value in honing the team’s all-action style.

The 29-year-old quickly became instrumental in triggering the Liverpool press and provided a series of tireless performances last season when he scored eight goals in 31 league appearances.

“He is a very important player for us,” said Klopp after Lallana signed a new three-year contract earlier this year. “For me it was clear we had to try everything to keep a player like him.”

Lallana frequently led the statistics for distance run during Liverpool matches, averaging around 13kms, although it is wrong to characterise the former Southampton midfielder as merely a bundle of energy.

He can play anywhere across midfield or out wide and his first touch and close control proved crucial to Liverpool’s link play. He was frequently at the heart of some of the club’s most important performances.

“It’s great to hear Adam Lallana is close to a return because it’s all about options with Juergen Klopp,” former Liverpool striker John Aldridge told the Liverpool Echo.

“Adam being fit gives us an option, and he’ll know he has to fight to win his place back. He’s been injured far too much and it’s unfortunate, but he’ll be under no illusions he has more of a fight than ever to hold down a place in this midfield.”

Competition has increased with the signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored on his first Premier league start for Liverpool against West Ham.

With Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino seemingly the first-choice attack, and Coutinho assured a midfield slot, Lallana will be competing with Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum for two starting spots, a competitive step up from last season.

“It’s a headache for Klopp, but it’s a good headache,” said Aldridge.

Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Toby Davis

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