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John Aldridge: Sakho shock and injuries won't derail Liverpool Europa League challenge

SoccerBy John Aldridge
John Aldridge: Sakho shock and injuries won't derail Liverpool Europa League challenge

JUST when it seemed as if everything was falling into place for Liverpool ahead of their Europa League semi-final against Villar­real, Jurgen Klopp has been hit with a string of worries.

News that de­fender Mamadou Sakho has failed a drugs test was a night­mare Klopp could do without and that story is set to rumble on for a few weeks.

Having declined to challenge the test results, it looks as though the centre-half could be set for a long period on the sidelines.

I am no chemist, but I hope that if Sakho has taken a banned substance, he did it by mistake and not because he was trying to cheat.

The details on that will all come out in due course.

After a long and arduous season, Liverpool are starting to pick up some major injuries, with Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and possibly Divock Origi all now set to miss the rest of the term.

I have concerns that the demands of the fixtures coming up could leave Liverpool short for the Villarreal games, with all eyes now on Daniel Sturridge.

While Sturridge has a stunning scoring record that continued against Newcastle on Saturday, we cannot afford to have him breaking down with another injury in the final month of this season and that goes for so many areas of the squad.

Joe Allen and Lucas will now have a massive role to play anchoring the midfield and they do not offer quite as much as Henderson and Can, the latter of whom has been doing a great job in the last few weeks.

Origi's injury following an awful challenge from Ramiro Funes Mori in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday night last is another hammer blow because the lad has been looking great up front in the last month.

Yet Liverpool cannot worry about what has gone and can only look to the final few games with optimism.

Klopp has shown that he will rest as many of his first-team stars as pos­sible from Premier League games as he throws all his chips into the Europa League campaign and that is the right decision.

He made a host of changes to his side for trip to Bournemouth last Sunday and still managed to pick up a very impressive victory.

A similar story was played out on Saturday as he rested some key men from the Newcastle game and that is the only way to go now.

Liverpool may be just two wins away from a place in next season's Champions League and there is also a major trophy up for grabs.

We have knocked out the best team in the competition in Borussia Dortmund and did a number on Manchester United in the previous round, so there is real momentum behind Liverpool.

Villarreal will be wary of Klopp's side when in the first leg at the Estadio El Madrigal on Thursday night and the key for me in this game is to try and get the away goal.

Scoring away from home in Eu­rope has become so important and if Klopp can get out of Spain this week with a draw and a goal or two, then the Anfield factor will come into play for the second leg.

Liverpool's home stadium may not have the biggest capacity in the world right now but it is a unique theatre for drama on European nights.

After experiencing the Dortmund game, it reminded me that there is no place like it.

Villarreal don't have a very good record away from home in the league and if they're a bit dodgy on their travels, Anfield is not a place they'll want to visit with the stakes so high.

Liverpool's performance in the 4-0 win against Everton last Wednesday was another example of how Klopp is getting his team moving in the right direction, with the speed of the transformation that he has inspired impressing all observers.

There's excitement for what lies ahead for Liverpool next sea­son under this wonderfully engag­ing manager, but there is still so much to look forward to in this run-in.

If Liverpool finish this term as trophy winners and with it a place in next season's Champions League, Klopp will have produced a minor miracle as he looks forward to what will be his first full campaign in charge at Anfield.