COMMENT By Coral Barry
Christian Benteke may just have been handed a Liverpool lifeline after it emerged that Divock Origi will be sidelined for four to six weeks.
Origi, 21, was stretched off during Liverpool’s 4-0 rout of Everton on Wednesday night and Belgium outlet RTBF are reporting he will be absent for at least a month with ankle ligament damage.
Benteke has not played for Liverpool since 20 March after he returned from international duty with Belgium early because of a knee problem and has spent that time watching Origi flourish from the sidelines.
Origi managed to leapfrog his fellow countryman even before Benteke was injured, but has firmly established himself as Jurgen Klopp’s first choice hitman in recent weeks, ahead of usually nailed on starter Daniel Sturridge, with five goals in his last five appearances.
Benteke on the other hand has managed just eight strikes in all competitions this season since moving to Liverpool from Aston Villa in the summer for a knee-buckling fee of £32.5million.
Belgian journalist Kristof Terreur claims Benteke is nearing a return to full fitness and the towering hitman could use Origi’s absence to convince Klopp to give him at least another year to prove he is worthy of his hefty price tag.
Benteke’s performances on the pitch have been just as woeful as his attitude off it after he lashed out at Klopp for not selecting him while away on international duty with Belgium.
But the news of Origi’s unfortunate injury presents an opportunity to the former Aston Villa man as he looks to reverse the decline of his Anfield career.
A huge Europa League semi-final with Villarreal looms ahead for Liverpool and with the Reds due to play mid-week and weekend fixtures from now until the end of the season, it is likely a fit Benteke would certainly get minutes on the pitch.
Klopp has also indicated that he is not exactly convinced with Sturridge after opting to put his faith in Origi for the Dortmund ties and a firing Benteke could potentially persuade his German manager that he could even be the preferred option up front in the big games.
However, Sturridge seems to have been galvanised by the competition of Origi, bagging a goal in each of his last three Premier League matches.
Liverpool still have a slim chance of making top four in the league, but will have set their sights on winning Klopp’s first piece of silverware as Reds manager in the Europa League and cementing a Champions League spot as competition winners.
Whoever gets the starting berth in Origi’s absence, Benteke must make sure to rediscover his shooting boots in whatever game time he gets between now and summer transfer window.