By Coral Barry
Liverpool will be without four first choice players when they travel to Spain to face Villarreal in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final showdown on Thursday.
A report claimed on Saturday that Mamadou Sakho has been suspended by Liverpool after failing a drug test, which was later substantiated by a statement from the club.
The Frenchman will “not be available for selection for matches” while a Uefa investigation takes place into Sakho allegedly taking a banned substance.
It is unlikely to be completed in time for the 26-year-old to play Villarreal in five days’ time, meaning Sakho will join fellow key men Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Divock Origi on the sidelines.
The trio of Origi, Sakho and Can have been at the heart of a remarkable couple of weeks for Liverpool with an memorable triumph over Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-final of the Europa League and a run of three consecutive victories in the Premier League.
Sakho and Origi were both on the scoresheet in the second half comeback against Dortmund that saw Liverpool win 4-3 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate.
Can also started both legs of the tie and Henderson was in the line-up for the first leg in Germany, but now Jurgen Klopp must now go to Spain without four of his most trusted lieutenants.
Origi suffered an ankle injury on Wednesday night against Everton after a nasty challenge and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
Henderson limped off during the first leg of the quarter-final with Dortmund two weeks ago and is likely to be in a race against time to be fit in time for the European Championships in the summer, let alone play for Liverpool again this season.
Can joined Henderson in the treatment room last week after he landed awkwardly on his ankle against Dortmund last Thursday.
Although there is some hope that Can and Origi may return in time for the Europa League final on May 18th, Klopp’s side will still have to progress past Villarreal without number of their best players.
In other Liverpool news, two Reds players has marked the final as their comeback dates.