Pep Lijnders admits Luis Diaz will be sorely missed but insists Liverpool can overcome losing him as they look to challenge for glory in the second half of the season.
The Colombia international is unlikely to play again until March after undergoing knee surgery and fellow attacker Diogo Jota also remains sidelined. A calf injury is expected to keep him out until late January or February.
“About Luis, we all know the impact he had on this team. For him and for the team, it’s really sad this has happened, but he has the character to come back strong and really help us. Hopefully everything goes smoothly,” Lijnders says.
“Jota is within the time frame. He was with us in Dubai. It was nice for someone with a long-term injury to get out of the English weather into the sunshine. He was in all the video meetings and we had a lot of them.”
Liverpool return to action away to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup on Thursday with Lijnders confident that they will reap the benefits of their recent training camp in Dubai.
Aside from France’s Ibrahima Konate, all of the club’s World Cup stars have returned to Kirkby, but some will be eased back into the team gradually. Curtis Jones is still out, but Joel Matip and Naby Keita are fit again.
“It’s new for us with a World Cup in the middle of the season. It gave us a chance to refresh in terms of rest and also in terms of our principles on the pitch,” he says.
“The ones who played at the World Cup made a lot of people proud. They have rhythm but they needed some time off as well. Players like Hendo (Jordan Henderson), Trent (Alexander-Arnold, Ali (Alisson) and Fabinho came back with a strong feeling and good energy which is important.
“We have one more session to go and then we’ll see how everyone is physically. The World Cup was an emotional rollercoaster for a lot of them.
“We had a really good training camp in Dubai. The togetherness, the spirit, the hunger, the passion, the fight – this team is 100 per cent motivated for City and for the second half of the season.”
Teenagers Ben Doak, Bobby Clark and Stefan Bajcetic could feature against City with Lijnders excited about their potential.
“Age is just a number. We believe that we need to give our talents chances, not just against lower league opposition. We believe in them,” he adds.
“Yesterday when I walked off the pitch, Jurgen said: ‘Wow, Stefan and Bobby, they play so mature, like they’re 25.’ You said: ‘And Ben Doak, imagine if he was a signing! Being so quick and technical makes a dangerous player. He learns quickly too which is nice to see.
“We are really happy with three young signings. I have to compliment Matt Newbury, our academy scout, for bringing these players in. I like the combination of speed, mentality and technique – Ben has all three.”
Asked about the possibility of Liverpool strengthening their squad in the January window, Lijnders said: “This is the press room, it isn’t the boardroom. We discuss these things in the boardroom! The next time that Jurgen sits here you can ask him. We are always ready, we are always prepared for the right player, right moment, right feeling.”
The Dutch coach also welcomed the fact that Liverpool and Manchester City have written to supporters urging them to avoid the kind of unsavory behavior that’s blighted recent meetings between the clubs.
“It’s very positive that both clubs are co-operating. With rivalry comes emotion, and that’s good because we need emotions from the stand, we need emotion for our players, we need to feel that these games matter in every second of the game.
“But the only problem with emotion is when there’s no respect, then it becomes really harmful and that can’t happen. Control your emotions, don’t let the emotions control you.”
(Photo: Getty Images)