With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out long-term and Emre Can expected to lose his race against time to be fit for the Champions League final, the last thing that Liverpool fans would have wanted to see on Sunday would have been James Milner sitting in the stands as Liverpool faced Brighton.
Jurgen Klopp explained that the midfielder was not risked due to an injury, though he did play down its severity.
“It’s a little injury. It’s serious enough to put him out for today; he couldn’t train the whole week,” Klopp said before the game, speaking to the club’s official website.
“We hope it will work out. But we had to accept it and we had to think about solutions. ”
After the game, Klopp looked to ease concerns and insist that Milner would be back to partner the likes of Jordan Henderson and Georgino Wijnaldum in midfield for the Champions League final in Kiev.
“Only today it was not possible,” he told the press after the final whistle, as reported by the club’s official website.
“I think the next three or four days he will still need and then he will be fine again. Even Millie the machine needs sometimes a few days and this game was not possible.”
If he suffers a setback though, it could be a major problem for the Reds who have no other senior players available as naturals in central midfield. Not only would this season’s most prolific assister in the competition, the team’s vice captain and one of the more experienced leaders of the squad be missing, but there are few options to replace him.
The next best alternative would likely be to switch Trent Alexander-Arnold into midfield, a role that he performed well in against Stoke City only a few weeks ago. Such a move would leave a gap in defence though with Joe Gomez also ruled out and would likely mean that Nathaniel Clyne would make only his third start of the season.
None of the alternatives are ones that Jurgen Klopp will want to entertain, so having Milner back at full fitness could be pivotal to Liverpool’s chances of adding a sixth European Cup to their collection.