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Alisson has returned to training, Jurgen Klopp has confirmed, a welcome festive boost for Liverpool in their battle with Manchester City and Arsenal at the top of the table. The Brazilian goalkeeper's return after just three matches on the sidelines is notably ahead of the most cautious initial expectations, with some early fears that his hamstring issue could even sideline him into 2024.

Instead, Alisson was back in training on Thursday and although Jurgen Klopp did not confirm whether the Brazilian would be available for Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace, it would appear that he will be able to feature when Manchester United visit Old Trafford eight days later. "Alisson looks good," said Klopp. "I don't know if it's good enough for tomorrow, I have to check that with the coaches, the medical department and with Ali."

Even with Alexis Mac Allister a doubt for Saturday and Joel Matip now facing a lenghty period on the sidelines with an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament, there could scarcely be more welcome news for Klopp than to have Alisson back in the squad after his injury in last month's 2-2 draw with City. Caoimhin Kelleher may be a widely admired young goalkeeper with potential in abundance, arguably one of the Premier League's best backups, but he is not one of the three or four best goalkeepers in the world.

Alisson is that. His exceptional sweeping behind the defense allows Liverpool to play an extremely high line; when that is punctured there might be no one better in one vs. one situations. Since the start of the 2020-21 Premier League season the 31 year old has prevented 19.96 goals, according to Opta's post-shot expected goals model. Second place in those rankings is Bernd Leno with 10.27. Without his heroics Liverpool look altogether more vulnerable, as was proven in their dramatic 4-3 win over Fulham.

Top 10 Goals Prevented since 2020-21

NameTeamGoals AgainstOwn GoalsExpected Goals on Target ConcededGoals Prevented
1Alisson BeckerLiverpool1104125.9619.96
2Bernd LenoFulham1239124.2710.27
3Emiliano Marti­nezAston Villa1519151.079.07
5Nick PopeNewcastle United1303133.886.88
6Alphonse AreolaWest Ham United80284.816.81
7Jose SaWolverhampton Wanderers1203123.076.07
8Thomas KaminskiLuton Town30134.815.81
9NetoAFC Bournemouth62265.295.29
10Guglielmo VicarioTottenham Hotspur22224.614.61

Now Liverpool have perhaps their most important player in position for a crucial run of games. Between now and January 1 Klopp's side face Manchester United, West Ham, Arsenal and Newcastle. Without the Premier League's best goalkeeper those matches could have proven critical to their title challenge. Instead they will face some of their toughest tests -- and Manchester United -- with the best insurance policy they could hope for.