Liverpool have erred on the side of caution and omitted defender Joel Matip from the squad to face Plymouth in their FA Cup third round replay as the row over his eligibility rumbles on.
As the debate over his availability continues Jurgen Klopp, after taking legal advice about the potential ramifications of playing the centre-back, has decided not to risk playing him at Home Park,
Liverpool were hoping FIFA would rule on Matip’s status as he insists he retired from international duty in September 2015 but Cameroon still tried to call him up for the African Nations Cup.
Despite talks between all parties there is a stand-off with Cameroon unwilling to consent to the release of Matip and FIFA not yet able to say whether the player is free to play.
Currently, therefore, the player is treated as having declined the call-up which means, under FIFA regulations, he is unavailable for his club for the duration of the period he would have spent with Cameroon plus an extra five days.
On Tuesday Klopp admitted he was considering playing Matip at Plymouth and then waiting to see what the consequences would be.
But, having claimed he has been told FIFA will decide by Friday whether an investigation into Matip’s non-compliance is necessary, the German has opted to take the safety-first option.
Klopp resents any suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of the club or player and officials believe the evidence in support of Matip was strong enough for him to be considered for duty again, having not played since mid-December because of injury and then being pulled from the squad to face Manchester United on Sunday late on.
However, by leaving him out of the cup replay they have given themselves a couple more days’ breathing space in the hope a successful outcome can be reached with FIFA’s agreement.
Liverpool’s squad flew down to Plymouth on Wednesday morning and Klopp, as expected, has taken a youthful squad which contains a number of senior players.
Striker Daniel Sturridge, who was an unused substitute at Old Trafford, and Philippe Coutinho, who has made two 30-minute substitute appearances after nearly seven weeks out with ankle ligament damage, have made the trip along with Ragnar Klavan, Divock Origi, Alberto Moreno, Joe Gomez and Kevin Stewart.
Midfielder Lucas Leiva has also travelled after overcoming the knee injury which ruled him out of the United game.