(Reuters) - Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has indicated that Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are likely to start in the Premier League clash with Stoke City on Wednesday.
The German chose to leave the pair out of the starting 11 in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with champions Chelsea, a decision that drew criticism on social media.
Although Mane came on for the final few minutes, Firmino was an unused substitute as Liverpool conceded a late equaliser at Anfield. Both men played the entirety of last week’s draw at Sevilla in the Champions League.
“It made sense at this part of the season to use the strength of the squad. It’s not completely unlikely they (Firmino and Mane) will start (against Stoke),” Klopp said in a news conference on Tuesday.
“For the last one, maybe we thought against Chelsea maybe he needs a rest or whatever – [but] it was that we needed fresh legs against Chelsea and that’s what we wanted to have. I thought it worked quite well.
“It was a very important sign for the squad and from my side that I show the faith in all of the boys. It was very important for me that the boys showed me they are 100 per cent ready, so that was good – really good.”
Klopp said that Emre Can, who also missed the Chelsea game with a muscle problem, was now fit and Dejan Lovren was “close” to a return after suffering a series of problems and could feature against Stoke.
Sixth-placed Liverpool are 14 points behind the leaders Manchester City, who beat Huddersfield Town 2-1 on Sunday, a gap that Klopp suggested his team were unlikely to breach.
“I saw the game against Huddersfield, It was deserved that City won. They win and if they win nobody else has a chance.
“As long as City keep winning then no-one else has a chance. I don’t care about this at the moment. If anyone struggles we need to be there.
“This is now a really decisive period of the season. We need to be spot on.”
Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Christian Radnedge