(Reuters) – Joel Matip and Naby Keita have returned to Liverpool first-team training but manager Juergen Klopp is yet to decide if both will be available for Tuesday’s Champions League encounter with Italian side Atalanta.
Matip is poised to hand Liverpool a timely fitness boost as Klopp hopes to navigate his squad through a central defence injury crisis, with both Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk out of contention.
Van Dijk underwent a successful knee surgery last week after damaging his ligaments against Everton.
Keita is also set to be part of the travelling group to Bergamo for Liverpool’s third match in Champions League Group D, but fellow midfielder Thiago Alcantara is yet to return to training.
“Naby and Joel trained yesterday with the team, full, Thiago didn’t. So, that’s the situation,” Klopp told a news conference.
“I have really no idea what I do with this information in the moment because yes, they trained, that’s good, it’s better than if they don’t train. But we have to see what we do with it.
“We have another day to make these decisions. A lot of players will be on the plane hopefully, and so decisions will be made late, late, late.”
Atalanta, renowned for their high-octane pressing style under coach Gian Piero Gasperini, defied expectations last season to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Klopp said Atalanta are Liverpool’s “biggest challenge in Europe so far” and compared the Italian outfit to Premier League’s Leeds United.
“With all Atalanta have done in the last few years, they are a settled team and they are very difficult to play against,” Klopp said.
“They are similar to Leeds in the way they set-up.
“They are a proper fighting unit. They have all our respect and I know how good they are.”
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)