In Tuesday’s press conference, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp gave an update on the No.9’s status coming into the Champions League semi-final clash against Villarreal.
Asked whether the Brazilian would feature against Unai Emery’s side, Klopp said: “I don’t think [he is ready] yet. He is running outside and that’s good, obviously, but I am not sure. Maybe somebody will surprise me afterwards and tell me, ‘Yes, Bobby is in.’ [I will have] open arms, but I don’t think so.”
The boss also covered the status of his squad overall, adding: “Apart from that [Firmino injury] no [new injuries] that I know yet.”
The absence of Firmino against a side who are expected to employ a low-block will be a huge blow for Klopp, who would have benefitted from his intricate dribbling and textbook passing against Villarreal tonight.
The 30-year-old has been a fundamental part of their Champions League progression this season. Despite only starting in 20% of the fixtures for Klopp in this year’s tournament, the Brazilian has achieved five goals in just six appearances.
Despite Diogo Jota’s sensational 21 goals this season, Klopp would have arguably preferred to start Roberto Firmino, with his ‘false-9’ style offering a potential stabiliser in the opponent’s final-third and his defensive metrics, in relation to his position, also an outstanding option in comparison to Jota or Mane.
Whilst his average of three shot-creating actions per match equal Jota’s offering, it’s his passing that sets him apart as a centre-forward, with his average of 37 passes per 90 an indication of his contribution to Klopp’s side.
With his midfielder-like approach, Firmino is difficult to mark out of the game as he is not a bolshy, traditional striker. His habit of dropping deep affords space for Liverpool’s wingers.
The Brazilian’s services and experience will be missed tonight in what is a huge blow for both the player and the team.