Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp described Luis Diaz’s latest injury setback as a “smash in the face” but welcomed the return of Joel Matip and Naby Keita during his side’s 3-1 defeat to Lyon in the Dubai Super Cup on Sunday.
The Reds signed Diaz for £37 million ($45.3m) from Porto in January and the Colombian winger has made an impact since, scoring 10 goals and providing eight assists for Liverpool in 38 games across all competitions.
He suffered a knee injury that has kept him on the sidelines since Liverpool’s loss to Arsenal in October but appeared to have recovered in time to join his teammates at the ongoing winter training camp at Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex in Dubai.
Diaz’s stay in the Emirates did not last long, though, as another setback saw him return to the UK for further assessment, with reports emerging in Colombian media that he may require surgery.
“I suppose he is not in the best positive place,” Klopp told reporters at Al Maktoum Stadium on Sunday.
“It is a big disappointment for all of us, for him as well. It was a non-situation in training honestly, pretty much nothing. Heard something. Didn’t feel a lot the next day. But we wanted to be really cautious and said okay, ‘let’s have a briefer look’. And then the news came and it was a proper smash in the face.”
Klopp was at least pleased to see Matip and Keita return to action, with the former making his first Liverpool appearance since early October and the latter his first since July.
“Very important, absolutely very important,” Klopp said of Matip’s involvement in the Lyon game. “So far he did pretty much everything in training. There was one session maybe we got advice to rest him a little bit, but it was not from him, it was from the medical department and that’s what we did. Apart from that he could do everything.
“He looked good today; 45 minutes was what we were allowed to use him, that’s what we did. Naby, his first 30 minutes I think for a while, they’re very helpful as well. Important position, important player. So, yeah, the info was that we should use him for 30 minutes. And I think against AC Milan next Friday, they are probably able to play a bit longer.”
In front of a 15,000-strong crowd – comprised mostly of Liverpool supporters – Fabio Carvalho scored 38 seconds into the match, latching onto a Mohamed Salah pass to give the Reds an early lead at Al Nasr Club’s Al Maktoum Stadium. Liverpool could have doubled their lead 15 minutes in when Roberto Firmino earned a penalty but Salah’s effort was saved by Lyon goalkeeper Lopes Anthony.
Klopp made a string of substitutions throughout the match, explaining how no player was allowed to stay in for more than 60 minutes, and Lyon capitalised on all the changes as they claimed victory with a brace from Alexandre Lacazette and a goal from Bradley Barcola.
Liverpool, who lie sixth in the Premier League table, 15 points behind leaders Arsenal, have a 12-day training camp in Dubai before heading back for the season restart. Their first fixture upon return is a League Cup clash with Manchester City on December 22 before taking on Aston Villa in the league on December 26.
Klopp says the team must do everything possible to avoid the sluggish start they had to their 2022/2023 campaign when the action resumes and took plenty of positives from the game against Lyon, despite the defeat.
“We want to chase, we want to be really ready immediately, that’s why we have to use the time now again to train, to really give the boys proper intensity and training,” said the German manager.
“And that’s why I was really happy with big parts of the first half [against Lyon], knowing that we did this, or seeing things in the right direction 100 percent; that was not always the case in the summer preparation.
“When we played the game tonight, I saw a lot of the things I wanted to see and so I am positive. But of course we play tough, tough teams, we start with Man City then we play against Aston Villa, who have still a new manager that will be highly energised, so that’s all clear, we know that.
“But we want to be again the most difficult team to play against and it’s up to us to be that.”
A host of World Cup players will take a week off before linking up with Liverpool back in the UK, with only Uruguay’s Darwin Nunez set to join the camp in Dubai on Monday.
The Dubai Super Cup will resume with a clash between AC Milan and Arsenal on Tuesday at 6pm and will conclude with an AC Milan-Liverpool showdown on Friday at 7.30pm.