Reds can't rotate in middle of park

LONDON • Liverpool host 19th-placed Stoke in the Premier League today with confidence sky-high after the 5-2 thrashing of Roma in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

The only downside was the season-ending injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, which could have serious implications for the Reds as they seek to finish a memorable season in style.

In a piece of good news, the England international, who will miss the World Cup after suffering knee ligament damage on Tuesday, could be back in time for pre-season training after avoiding a cruciate ligament injury.

At his pre-match press conference, Jurgen Klopp expressed his disappointment at Oxlade-Chamberlain's enforced absence, which has left the German with a selection headache for the match at Anfield against the Potters.

"I have no words for that. I cannot believe that this wonderful player and person... had this happen to him," said the manager.

"It's just a shame. It's not fair but that's how life. If you get a lemon, make lemonade out of it.

"That's what Alex is doing. He's a positive person and he will be back. I've told him already that we will wait for him like a good wife (does) when a man is in prison!"

Liverpool are already short of options in midfield, with Emre Can absent due to a bad back and Adam Lallana, who has endured a stop-start season, recovering from a hamstring problem.

Klopp's only available senior midfielders are the three players who finished the Roma match - Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner - and he can ill-afford to lose any of them before the second leg on Wednesday.

He did shed some positive light on Sadio Mane, who picked up a knock against the Italians, adding that the forward "had a chance" to play in the "massive game".

The Reds still need five points from their final three league games to guarantee a top-four finish.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LIVERPOOL V STOKE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Reds can't rotate in middle of park'. Print Edition | Subscribe