Jürgen Klopp insists that Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson remains as important as ever despite his lack of recent playing time.
Much has been made of the midfielder's absence, having not played for the Reds since their impressive 2-0 home win over Tottenham Hotspur on February 11 due to an ongoing foot issue.
Henderson playing a key role despite premature end to his season
Henderson had been a crucial part of the Liverpool's impressive surge in the opening months of the season, spraying passes around the midfield to keep the game ticking over and ensure a patient mindset was kept, while his stunning strike away at Chelsea was an example of his other capabilities.
However, the 26-year-old had his season prematurely ended by injury following the win against Spurs - his niggling problem delaying his return.
Consequently, Emre Can has since come in and taken up the reigns in midfield with a string of improved performances. Adding extra steel and grit to the side, Liverpool have coped pretty well in their skipper's absence, though that's not to say they haven't missed him.
Despite being unable to feature for the run-in, Klopp pointed to Henderson's off-the-field influence to emphasise the crucial role he has had in recent months.
"We were not one second without our captain because Hendo is always around. He has an unbelievably important role," the manager said. "Not only on the pitch but it's another role in the dressing room, here at Melwood and all that stuff, and he's always here so we are never without him and will not be without him on Sunday."
Henderson's injuries proving an issue
Nonetheless, Henderson's injuries have to be a real concern for Klopp heading into next season. The captain has missed over 30 games under the German - a harrowing record which has caused some to question his dependability, particularly given his captaincy role.
While Klopp's defence of the player has gone some way to cooling that, there is certainly cause for concern heading into next season should Henderson's injuries persist.
Liverpool will no doubt be in the market for a midfielder in the summer, with Naby Keïta one of those firmly linked to the club, and Henderson's injury record will make midfield back-up even more of a priority.
Speaking on his current injury, Klopp said there are "no concerns" over his problem, but admitted the season "was obviously a little bit too short for him to come back."
The German explained: "It’s not that difficult an injury, the problem is only that it’s difficult to make the rehabilitation because this injury, all it needs is time. I had situations like this before. I don't know how many players I've managed in the last few years, but at one point always you think 'It would have been better if he would have broken his leg' or whatever [because] then you know everything about it."
That statement arguably sums up the situation with Henderson at the moment. It's not just his injury record but the manner in which his injury problems has been handled by the media.
There is very little knowledge over what the root cause is, with some discussing that it could go back to Alex Ferguson's rather damning comments about the England midfielder's running gait in 2013.
The inability to ascertain what the issue is for Henderson could see these injury persist and with Liverpool eager to mount a domestic challenge for the title and compete in Europe next season, extra midfield recruits will seemingly be essential.