Joel Matip is running out of time to prove his fitness ahead of Sunday’s table-topping clash with Manchester United.
It is understood the Liverpool centre half has progressed to training in specially-prepared sessions with the physios, as he returns following an adductor injury sustained against West Brom on December 27.
With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez out long-term, Matip is vital to boss Jurgen Klopp’s plans, especially with the game against United being billed as a title showdown.
Matip is back running and working with a ball on grass, but he has yet to train with the first-team squad, and Klopp would need to see him train for two sessions with his team-mates, and come through with no reaction, to be ready.
That leaves him little time to prove his fitness, and with games coming thick and fast after the United game at Anfield – with an intense period where they will effectively play every three days – then the Reds boss may decide not to risk his key central defender.
That leaves him with a tough choice on who to partner Fabinho at centre half, with the Brazilian himself a stop-gap stand-in from his usual position in the centre of midfield.
Skipper Jordan Henderson performed the role at Southampton, but Klopp desperately needs his energy and leadership in the middle of park against Liverpool’s bitter rivals.
And if he chooses to restore Henderson to the midfield then either 19 year old Rhys Williams, or the slightly more experienced Nat Phillips could play at the back.
The German boss though, will still be desperately hoping Matip can train this week in a full squad session, and save him the headache of another central defensive puzzle.