Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is looking forward to the return of his “difference-maker” Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The England international is poised to make his first appearance in a matchday squad at Fulham on Sunday for the first time after a knee injury in pre-season.
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It will be the 27-year-old’s second comeback from a knee problem, although it is not even close to first time around when he was sidelined for 366 days after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, rupturing his lateral collateral ligament, damaging his medial ligament and tearing a hamstring tendon off the bone in a tackle during a Champions League semi-final.
There was some criticism of the player’s performances after he returned first time around but Klopp said that was unfair.
“I don’t understand these kind of discussions to be honest. You have to be injured once in your life to understand how difficult it is to find everything completely natural and normal again after that,” he said.
“Being compared to the best moment of your career after coming back from an injury is a really dumb thing to do – ‘Oh he’s not that good any more’ – I have no time for that.
“Ox is an outstanding player, an outstanding player, was always and will always be.
“In training, what Ox did so far you can see his quality immediately. Immediately. He is a difference-maker, you can see that.
“Did he always play perfectly well? No. But he had a few really good games that helped us a lot.
“The longer he can stay without injury the better he will be. This time we are really confident we can do that until the end of his career.”
Liverpool have missed Oxlade-Chamberlain’s drive and goalscoring ability from midfield but Klopp is confident it will not be long before they are witnessing it again.
And he believes the team will benefit from having the midfielder around again.
“He is just a very positive person, very optimistic person. In a moment when Ox joins parts of team training again, everybody gets the benefit of that. That’s the way he is,” Klopp added.
“You don’t know that you are missing him because he is not there for a long time and then the moment he comes in and is in the gym with the players they say ‘OK, right…it’s much better when he is here’. That’s Ox.
“In the first few weeks the boys get all the help they need, but then, especially with Ox, he is the energy-giver, he doesn’t need too much energy from other people.”