Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will make player welfare top priority heading into the Champions League dead rubber at home to Porto but believes he can still select a side which respects the competition.
Victory last time out against Atletico Madrid means Klopp’s side qualified for the last 16 with two matches to spare.
With at least eight players already injured or doubtful for the match, the Reds boss knows he has to manage his options with 12 games in 40 days.
He has been punished before as last December he played Diogo Jota in a match against Midtjylland which had nothing riding on it and lost the forward for three months – a decision he “hated” but would not do differently.
“We always respect the competition but we have to think about ourselves and our schedule and the situation of our players first,” he said.
“In this time of the season, the medical department has a big hand in line-ups.
“It’s really easy to sit there, all the people who judge us, and say ‘leave him out, leave him out, leave him out’.
“If we leave them all out and play with a team that is not a Champions League team – we don’t have enough players for that, by the way – then nobody can get injured.
“We have to line up a team who has a chance to win a football game. The Diogo situation was very unlucky. I hated it, that I made the decision.
“But would I have made the decision the same again? That’s the only question I have to answer. Yes, I would have again, because you need stability.
“We cannot play football games with this line-up, then next a game line-up which has no chance to win a game, then bring them back again.
“Players need rhythm, all these kinds of things. Do I make the decision because I don’t care who gets injured in the line-up tomorrow?
“No, I can’t and I will not. These things happen in football. Hopefully nothing happens tomorrow.”
Captain Jordan Henderson was only fit enough for a substitute’s role against Arsenal on Saturday, a match left-back Andy Robertson missed after he sustained an injury on Scotland duty.
Klopp said both could play against Porto but neither was fully fit. Two players who are likely to get a run-out, though, are Takumi Minamino and academy graduate Tyler Morton.
“Taki was pretty much our option for changing five positions in the Arsenal game and that says a lot,” added Klopp.
“His confidence has grown in the last few months and you can see how good a player he is. He will get his minutes (over the course of the next couple of months), definitely.”
The 19-year-old Morton’s first-team debut only came in September’s Carabao Cup win at Norwich, while he made his first Premier League appearance as a late substitute at the weekend.
“In pre-season he was with us and you could see his technical skills but he was not overly-confident,” said Klopp.
“Then he came on against Norwich and played a super game. That made all the difference.
“You could see the next day how the confidence level exploded overnight. I saw the real Tyler Morton 2021.
“He’s in a good place at the moment, now let’s work from here.”