Joel Matip Liverpool
Liverpool defender Joel Matip is struggling to fully recover from an ankle injuryReuters

Liverpool will want to keep the pressure on league leaders Chelsea, and it looks like they might have to try and do that without key defender Joel Matip again. The centre-back missed the last two games with an ankle injury and Jurgen Klopp is wary of rushing the summer signing back.

Whenever Matip has played at the back, Liverpool have looked a lot more assured in defence, which just highlights how important a player he is for Klopp. However, the manager is keen on making sure Matip is fully ready and recovered before reinstating him in the starting XI.

"We could have tried to bring him back in the Everton game, but then it would have been a 95 per cent probability that he is out for the next game," Klopp told reporters. "So we decided to give him the time he needed to really settle, because he has had these problems for a few weeks.

"It was always close – next game probably, then not, then he could play, then he was in the squad but we couldn't use him. We tried everything. But at the end you have to accept how it is. It is not possible that he feels 100 per cent comfortable and that makes it really difficult.

"I spoke to him and he was very positive. But he [has been] out of training for a few days already, and as long as we have other players in training all the time, we will choose them."

Klopp, who is set to name Simon Mignolet in goal again, will want to pick his best available XI, especially the defenders, considering how dangerous Stoke City can be going forward. For Liverpool's own forward options, Philippe Coutinho remains unavailable, with the Brazilian unlikely to take part in any of the club's festive fixtures.

One player set to make a return from a long-term problem is Ibrahim Afellay. The Dutchman is back in full training after sustaining a serious knee ligament injury last season. Afellay could feature for Stoke for the first time since April.

"Ibi played last week and came through the game strongly, so he is now back in the squad and available for selection," Stoke City manager Mark Hughes said. "I am delighted he has come back as strongly as he has because he suffered a really bad injury.

"He looks like the old Afellay which is tremendous because usually when players come back they are a little apprehensive."

Stoke, however, will be without Phil Bardsley and Geoff Cameron, with both still a few weeks away from recovering from their respective injuries while Marko Arbautovic serves the second of his three-match suspension.

Confirmed starting XI: Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Lallana, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Origi, Firmino.

Stoke City: Grant; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan, Imbula; Walters, Allen, Diouf; Crouch.