Robbie Keane has not been included in Liverpool’s squad for the home Premier League clash with Chelsea at Anfield today.
Albert Riera, Dirk Kuyt and Xabi Alonso return in place of Yossi Benayoun, Ryan Babel and Lucas.
Chelsea field the same side that beat Middlesbrough 2-0 in midweek, with Salomon Kalou recovered from a minor injury sustained in that match.
It is the second time that manager Rafael Benitez has omitted striker Keane from his match-day squad in the past few weeks, again throwing his future at the club into considerable doubt.
The first time was for the FA Cup tie with Everton on January 24, although he was re-instated as a late substitute against Wigan in midweek.
Now it would be no surprise if Keane left Anfield before the close of the transfer window, with Tottenham the likely destination, following his £20m summer move from White Hart Lane.
Benitez named David Ngog, the French teenager, among his substitutes, with Fernando Torres expected to be a lone striker up front with Steven Gerrard in support.
Throughout the Keane saga, Benitez has never got to the stage of saying Keane would not be sold.
He has insisted the player is in his plans, but once he said that it was “the club” who had spent the £20m on the Irishman and not him, Keane’s days have appeared numbered at the club.
Benitez, who is having talks this weekend over his future with American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, seems to be using the dispute over Keane to make his point over transfer policy at the club.
The Americans arrived independently from the United States earlier in the weekend, and it is believed that a board meeting will be held at Anfield tomorrow to discuss the many pressing topics surrounding the club.
One will be the future role of chief executive Rick Parry, with Benitez wanting a far greater control over deals. Currently they have to be agreed by Parry.
Benitez has always been annoyed that the club vetoed his summer move for Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry, claiming that the £18m asking price was too high.
Then Benitez witnessed the sanctioning of a £20m move for Keane, when he would have preferred to seal Barry’s move first.
Now it is believed that Benitez’s contract talks will be revived, after being put on hold by the Spanish coach last month.
The sticking point then was not wages or the length of the contract – all having been agreed -but his desire to control transfers.
The Americans have been unhappy to concede that power, but it is thought that a new clause in the proposed contract stating that transfers will be agreed by the board and not just Parry could see an end to the impasse.
If Benitez can get control of negotiations and fees and then submit them to the board, bypassing Parry, he may be satisfied enough to sign.
Hicks and Gillett were at Anfield for the match with Chelsea today, and will have further talks with Benitez over the next couple of days.
By then Keane could be on his way out of the club. Liverpool have already warned Spurs about a possible illegal approach for the player and have made it clear they want back most of the fee paid in the summer for Keane.