The postponement of Liverpool’s trip to Man United has been seen as a disruption to the fixture list, but the delay could actually benefit Jurgen Klopp and his side.
Such is the difficulty posed by dropping Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford, it took days for a new date to be decided for Man United vs Liverpool.
Talks are underway between the two clubs, the Premier League and Greater Manchester Police, with even an alternative venue being considered following protests from United supporters.
With less than three weeks to go before the high-level campaign, neither Ole Gunnar Solskjaer nor Jurgen Klopp will have welcomed the postponement.
But as the dust settles and Liverpool return to work at Kirkby, Klopp may well see the forced break as a bright spot.
Between the 1-1 draw with Newcastle on April 24 and the visit of Southampton this Saturday, there will have been 13 days effectively “free”.
Some of it will have been spent on recovery, some on media duty and some on preparation for the trip to Manchester, but overall it will have been spent on the training ground.
It is, in fact, the longest period that the Liverpool side have been able to work together, almost without interruption, throughout the campaign.
There have been three international breaks, of which March saw the fewest starts, but there have always been absentees during those non-game periods.
Even the 12 days between meetings with Southampton and Man United in January, which many believed Klopp could have used as an informal winter break, saw the FA Cup third round game with Aston Villa stuck in between.
The fact that Klopp chose to field many of his senior players against the Villa academy squad that night was seen by some as a mistake, in a campaign where rest was paramount.
Two months later, the manager envisioned a 17-day gap between clashes with Wolves and Arsenal, relishing the opportunity to ‘reset’ following a 1-0 loss to Fulham.
“A few players will go to the internationals, a few won’t. So we’re going to use this time to practice and then we can change it, because we have to change it, ”he told LFCTV.
“I don’t know if this is what we need, but we need something.
“Being together, being on the training ground and working on things has always helped us and will help us this time around.”
Since returning from the March international break, which only saw 12 first-team players called up, Liverpool have lost just once in six games – the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid.
Granted, they haven’t been at their best, but this loss to Fulham in March is the last time the Reds suffered a Premier League loss, ending a 14-game streak that saw them lose eight and winning just three since Crystal Palace’s 7-0 beating.
This gave Fabinho time to regain his form and readjust to the No.6 role as Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips partnered with the center-back – and this time the break could benefit Phillips in particular. .
Phillips was a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup revealed ahead of the cancellation of the game against United, having missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury.
The assumption was that he had been rushed, not having been pictured in training in the build-up, with Fabinho required in midfield and neither Rhys Williams nor Ben Davies trusted a tie of this caliber.
It may have been a Klopp bet, but now Phillips has had more time on the training ground to rebuild his sharpness and prepare for a return to action.
Are the touch and finish correct?
Boss’s goal, Nat? pic.twitter.com/yNQm7c5Wfh
– Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 4, 2021
Likewise, the overused likes of Gini Wijnaldum, Andy Robertson, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will benefit from extended rest for the first time this season, which could help them revitalize their form.
They are silver liners in a frustrating situation for Liverpool, who now face a more crowded race as they hope to place in the top four.
But they are expected to be adopted in Kirkby, with the delay in facing United potentially turning into a real positive.
And if all else fails, at least that extends the streak of undefeated days – now almost a month!