The biggest dilemma around Liverpool ahead of the 243rd Merseyside derby regarded the status of their South American continent.
With Uruguay international Darwin Nunez facing off against Alisson Becker’s Brazil in Montevideo, Alexis Mac Allister in action for World Cup winners Argentina in Peru and Luis Diaz turning out for Colombia away to Ecuador, returning all four safely to Merseyside ahead of the visit from the Blues was top of the agenda for Jurgen Klopp.
The previous international break saw Klopp choose to keep Diaz and Nunez on the bench at Wolves as Mac Allister, who had been playing – to use Klopp’s phrasing – “in the mountains of Bolivia” just a few days earlier struggled during his 45-minute cameo.
This time around, Nunez, who suffered cramp during the 2-0 victory against Alisson’s Brazil, was left on the bench as Diaz and Mac Allister were entrusted to help see off Sean Dyche’s side.
Lessons have clearly been learned from the September break as Liverpool sought to organise the return of their South American quartet earlier to enable them more time to prepare for the game against their local rivals.
A private jet was chartered to minimize travel issues for all four players, with Klopp hinting that it had come at quite the expense for the club in his Friday press conference.
It’s not unusual for Premier League clubs to share the cost of bringing back those involved in international action in South America.
In 2017, Liverpool teamed up with Manchester City fly back Ederson, Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino ahead of a meeting between the two sides, while Chelsea also chipped in to fly Willian back to England.
It’s a far from ideal situation but it’s an unavoidable one that Liverpool handled better in October than they did in September.
Last month, Mac Allister was hauled off after a disappointing first half that was perhaps the fault of Klopp more than anyone else for picking a player who had been pictured huffing on an oxygen tank just a few hours previously, due to the altitude of playing at La Paz’s Estadio Hernando Siles, which is over 35000 metres above sea level.
On that occasion, Nunez and Diaz were needed from the bench as both players helped turn the game with decisive contributions in the 3-1 win. Once more on Saturday, it was Nunez whose substitute cameo helped turn the tide against Dyche’s Blues.
The No.9’s productive season goes on but it was the quiet contributions of Diaz that ultimately made the difference, even if the headlines will go to two-goal Mohamed Salah.
It was Diaz who was upended near the halfway line in the first half by Ashley Young and if the veteran full-back was unhappy with that decision from Craig Pawson he could have few complaints about the second caution of the afternoon when he wiped out the Colombian winger once more towards the end of the first period.
Everton defended resolutely with 10 men in the second period but it was Diaz who again caused problems when his cross was handled by substitute Michael Keane.
That penalty call – via the use of the pitchside monitor by Pawson – came moments after the winger had another shout for a spot-kick turned down after he was tackled inside the area.
So while it was Salah and Nunez who scooped much of the attention after the game for their input, it was Diaz’s willingness to run at the Everton defence every chance he got that eventually broke them down.
More of the same will be needed when the Reds are next in 12.30-kick-off action on the other side of international break, at Manchester City in late November.
But having been made to deal with that scheduling twice already this term, Liverpool will feel they are as equipped as possible to handle it once again, even if the visit to treble winners City will prove to be a much tougher examination than Wolves or Everton, with the greatest of respect.