Finally, it was a good weekend for Liverpool. Results involving the teams around them went in their favour and they picked up their first victory in five league matches.
The manager said it was a ‘very big’ result and there are now a few rays of light breaking through the thick cloud that has been cast over the Merseyside giants this season.
By Thursday night, after they have taken on Chelsea, Liverpool could be back in the top four and here are some of the reasons why there is finally a glimmer of hope at Anfield.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was all smiles on Sunday after his side returned to winning ways
Roberto Firmino and Curtis Jones were the men who inspired victory over Sheffield United
1. Curtis Jones is seizing his chance
Liverpool’s midfield has been hugely disrupted this season as a result of their defensive injuries.
Long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez as well as several spells on the sidelines for Joel Matip left Klopp with no senior centre backs. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, who are two of Klopp’s regular starters in midfield, have had to fill in in central defence, leaving gaps further up the pitch.
But Curtis Jones, who has impressed since his breakthrough into the first team 18 months ago, has stepped up in their absence.
Midfielder Jones is seizing his opportunity in the absence of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson
He’s scored four goals and added four assists in 20 starts this season – the best return for a Liverpool midfielder this season – and has really seized his opportunity in recent weeks.
In the Reds’ Champions League last-16 first leg victory over RB Leipzig he supplied the assist for Sadio Mane’s second in their 2-0 win and on Sunday he broke the deadlock in their 2-0 victory at Bramall Lane.
Former Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness was quick to praise the youngster, who is direct and confident on the ball.
‘When you watch him (Jones) play, you realise he’s full of technique. He can dribble in tight areas and he puts a shift in,’ he told Sky Sports.
The 20-year-old scored the opener in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Sheffield United at the weekend
‘(He’s) 20 years old, he has a chance of being a real player for this club. The fact he’s a scouser is a real bonus. He could have a big part to play in Liverpool’s future.
‘He’s got the ability, athleticism and looks to have the attitude.
‘He’s one of several young English midfield players who have got a chance of being a big player in the Premier League as long as he keeps a head on his shoulders.
‘Two things stop him from being a good player – a big head or an injury.’
With Georginio Wijnaldum’s future at the club still uncertain, Jones could be the man to take his place in Liverpool’s midfield in the long term.
2. Fabinho, James Milner and Naby Keita are back
There is some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to injuries. Midfielders James Milner and Naby Keita returned at the weekend following their respective injuries.
They were both introduced off the bench and they’ll be a welcome sight for the Reds given captain Henderson was ruled out for up to eight weeks with a groin problem last week.
Keita’s 2020-21 season has been blighted by injury setbacks but he has previously shown glimpses that he can provide a spark in behind the frontline.
Klopp indicated Fabinho should be available for Liverpool’s next clash – against Chelsea
Makeshift centre back Fabinho was not ready for the visit to Sheffield United but Klopp indicated he should be available for Liverpool’s next clash – against Chelsea – on Thursday.
The Brazilian is the pivotal axis in Liverpool’s midfield but this season has had to provide cover at the back.
Nathaniel Phillips and January arrival Ozan Kabak were the central defensive duo on Sunday and although they kept a clean sheet were not really tested by the Premier League’s lowest scorers.
With greater midfield options at Klopp’s disposal it is likely Fabinho will be called upon to play in defence when they face the much tougher challenge of Thomas Tuchel’s side.
Midfielder Naby Keita made his comeback from injury off the bench against the Blades
3. Trent Alexander-Arnold is rediscovering his best form
The Liverpool right back’s performances have been below par this season and he admitted he hadn’t been at his best last month.
But there have been promising signs that Alexander-Arnold is finding his form, typified by a strong display against the Blades.
The England international was back spraying the ball around, picking out fellow full back Andy Robertson with crossfield passes and was threatening high up the pitch.
There have been promising signs of late that Trent Alexander-Arnold is rediscovering his form
Alexander-Arnold, who supplied 13 assists last campaign, worked the ball excellently down the right to create Jones’ opener in the second half.
Both Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are so key to Liverpool being at their free-flowing best in attack. The Scotland international, who provided 12 assists last term, put in another consistent display in the Steel City.
It appears the dynamic duo are both returning to form at just the right time.
4. Diogo Jota can ease the burden on the front three
As well as key midfielders returning to the fold, Diogo Jota is set to make his comeback from injury.
The Portuguese forward, who hit the ground running following his £41million move from Wolves last summer, has been out of action since picking up a knee injury on December 9.
Klopp revealed that he was in line to be included in the matchday squad were it not for illness on Saturday night.
Liverpool should be able to call upon Diogo Jota when they welcome Blues on Thursday night
As long as he makes a speedy recovery, Jota, who notched nine goals in 17 games prior to his spell on the treatment table, will be available to play against Chelsea this week.
Liverpool’s front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have been nothing short of sensational in recent years but, understandably, they need rest and Jota coming back into the fray gives Klopp the opportunity to rotate.
Takumi Minamino was sent out on loan to Southampton while Divock Origi, despite scoring important goals for the club, has fallen short of the standards required.
Jota has the quality to allow Salah, Firmino or Mane to have a break and his return is a timely boost.
5. Time for other sides to slip up?
Despite Liverpool’s woeful form they are now just one point behind fifth-placed Chelsea and two points off West Ham in the final Champions League spot.
The Blues were held to a goalless draw by Manchester United while David Moyes’ side fell to a 2-1 defeat by league leaders Manchester City at the weekend.
Third-placed Leicester, six points ahead of the Reds, also dropped points as they lost 3-1 to Arsenal. The Foxes are also now dealing with an injury crisis.
Harvey Barnes joined James Justin, James Maddison, Wesley Fofana, Ayoze Perez, Dennis Praet, Jonny Evans and Wes Morgan on the sidelines.
Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals Everton can leapfrog them and so can Aston Villa but the teams above them have started to show cracks.
Klopp’s champions are by no means out of the woods just yet but they have started to finally recover.
Leicester have slipped up and have their own injury crisis with Harvey Barnes now sidelined