Jurgen Klopp’s frustration with the fixture schedule could increase this weekend with Liverpool resigned to being without their Brazilian internationals but Tottenham set to make their South Americans available.
Klopp expects to be without Alisson Becker and Fabinho for their 12.30pm game against Watford on Saturday as they face Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier in the early hours of Friday and the logistics of getting players back and in the right physical and mental shape to play a Premier League match the next day is impractical.
Spurs, however, have the TV game 28 hours later and their returning players will fly back by private jet to be assessed whether they can face Newcastle United in their opponent’s first game under new Saudi Arabian ownership.
Argentina pair Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero, Brazilian full-back Emerson Royal and Colombia centre-back Davinson Sanchez were not given early releases and also play on Thursday and the early hours of Friday.
But they will fly directly back after their matches and sleep at Spurs’ training ground at Bulls Cross, Enfield, as part of the conditions to allow them to play after visiting a “red-list” country during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Spurs are also checking whether they must travel to the north-east separately from the rest of Nuno Espirito Santo’s squad to satisfy coronavirus safety protocols. But there is confidence that Nuno will have his South American players back to assess before deciding whether they are fit to play against Newcastle.
Lo Celso and Romero are expected to start in the World Cup qualifier against Peru in the early hours of Friday morning before dashing back to Europe. Davinson and Emerson were both on the bench when Colombia and Brazil played out a goalless draw on Sunday and they will be in a better position to play for Spurs if they are among the substitutes again for their next matches.
Klopp does not consider it safe and reasonable to expect his Brazilian players to play twice in two days, while the rest of his squad will have at least one training session before heading to London on Friday. On the plus side for Klopp, Trent Alexander-Arnold has recovered from a recent groin issue and will be available at Vicarage Road.
That means back-up keepers Caoimhin Kelleher and Adrian will fight for the right to start against new Watford coach Claudio Ranieri’s side, with the young Irishman most likely to deputise.
After his well-documented criticism of the international schedule, Klopp has more cause for frustration given the timing of a World Cup qualifier just over 24 hours before a domestic game, impeding his ability to select his strongest line-up this weekend. With points so precious in what promises to be a tight title race, the loss of two key players due to avoidable external factors is highly contentious.
Klopp had flagged up the issue several weeks ago, noting the lack of foresight in preventing a fixture clash and broader ambivalence across the footballing authorities and broadcasters about resolving the issue.
“Obviously nobody thought about that (the scheduling) yet and it’s a Liverpool problem, not a problem for anybody else,” Klopp said last month.“Good for Watford. I just don’t know how you can do these things and nobody reacts on the schedule.
“The schedule is always a problem but it’s like the TV guys and the Premier League just say, ‘Ok, that’s how it is, they have to play.’”
It will come as some relief that the South America pair can at least travel with the squad for Liverpool’s European game against Atletico Madrid next week, despite having recently returned from one of the UK’s ‘red-list’ countries under the Covid regulations.
They are due to be quarantined upon their return to England, but Liverpool believe that they are free to leave their quarters in order to join the squad and play the game in Spain.
Before the international break it was announced that Premier League players will be allowed to travel to red-list nations if they are fully vaccinated, then would have to quarantine in “bespoke facilities” for 10 days upon their arrival back in the UK.