Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said centre-back Virgil van Dijk is a doubt to face Flamengo in the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup final on Saturday due to illness.
Van Dijk, 28, missed Tuesday's 2-1 semi-final win over Mexican outfit Monterrey, when club captain Jordan Henderson moved from midfield to partner Joe Gomez in defence.
Klopp addressed the media after the semi-final and explained Van Dijk's absence after the Netherlands international was pictured training ahead of the fixture, per James Carroll of LiverpoolFC.com:
"It was an easy decision actually because he couldn't train. Yes, he was yesterday on the (training) pitch for a couple of minutes until the media left (the session) and then, unfortunately, he had to leave as well. Not because of the media, just because he didn't feel well.
"So yesterday no training was possible, this morning no training possible, so it was an easy decision—he couldn't play. It was difficult for Hendo to deal with, but he did really good.
"We will see, I don't know how quick he can recover. We will see."
Roberto Firmino provided the injury-time winner for Liverpool after Monterrey striker Rogelio Funes Mori had cancelled out Naby Keita's opening strike:
The Reds defence was caught sleeping for the equaliser and permitted Funes Mori—twin brother of former Everton defender Ramiro—too much space inside the box from a set piece.
Former Liverpool midfielder Harry Kewell spoke to BBC Sport (via Anfield Watch) after Wednesday's game and credited Van Dijk with supreme organisational qualities in defence:
Anfield Watch @AnfieldWatch
Harry Kewell: “A defender's first job is to defend - with Van Dijk, it is to organise the rest of his defence too. That is what Liverpool missed the most against Monterrey. No-one had his kind of defensive vision, or ability to spot danger.” Agree? 🤔 https://t.co/XDXU2823bw
Klopp, 52, is under some pressure to deliver Liverpool's first Club World Cup crown after bringing such a strong squad to Qatar, and Van Dijk's return would significantly improve their chances on Saturday.
The Dutch defender showed his support from the sidelines minutes after Firmino sent Liverpool to their second Club World Cup final:
The Merseysiders suffered a 1-0 defeat to Sao Paulo in their only previous Club World Cup final appearance in 2005, and they will be hoping Copa Libertadores champions Flamengo won't repeat that upset 14 years later.
Despite Van Dijk's importance to Klopp's plans, Leanne Prescott of The Anfield Wrap highlighted figures throughout the Liverpool dressing room who have risen to the challenge:
Leanne Prescott @_lfcleanne
Used to be with #LFC that their most important player would be abundantly clear. Now a flurry of names: Van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Fabinho, Salah, Mané, Firmino etc. So many players across the pitch who are pivotal. No longer reliant on 1 player but a cohesive effort.
Flamengo hit back from a goal down to defeat Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal 3-1 in their Club World Cup semi-final, and the Brazilians will be eager to make a mark in their final fixture of 2020.
European champions Liverpool return to Khalifa International Stadium hopeful they can clinch one more trophy before the end of year, with Van Dijk in a race to be healthy for the clash.