Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may have to use a ‘Plan C’ in defence after the worrying injury suffered by Joe Gomez during England training. The Premier League champions’ list of defensive options is fast running out, but Klopp insists he still has several players who can fill in for Gomez and fellow casualty Virgil van Dijk.
Van Dijk is already facing a race to return this season, and Liverpool fear Gomez could be set for the same fate after suffering suspected knee ligament damage.
The 23-year-old went down unchallenged during a Three Lions training session, and the Reds were last night awaiting the results of a scan on his injury.
Liverpool’s latest injury blow leaves them with Joel Matip as their only fit, senior centre-back, after Klopp decided against signing a centre-back in the transfer window. And Matip’s fitness is unreliable, with the Cameroonian having not managed back-to-back Premier League games for more than a year.
As he works his way down the list of options, Reds boss Klopp has spoken of using a surprise ‘Javier Mascherano-type’ solution and converting another player to a makeshift centre-back.
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Fabinho has already done this, of course, with the midfielder having filled in at centre-half in the absence of Van Dijk – although the Brazilian himself is currently recovering from a hamstring knock.
But Klopp has suggested he has other players who can make the same conversion, with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner or Andy Robertson all potential candidates.
He made the comparison to former Liverpool and Barcelona star Mascherano, who started his career as a defensive midfielder but also played as a centre-half despite being just 5ft 8ins in height.
“We have still, obviously, other options like Hendo or Gini or James – or Robbo can play centre-half as well,” Klopp told reporters. “They are all not smaller than Mascherano, for example, and he played pretty well in that position.
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“So yes, we have obviously still one or two options and one of them, we will choose. Which one, you have to switch on the television tomorrow night.”
The manager can also call upen centre-backs Nat Phillips, 23, and Rhys Williams, 19. Both have played alongside Gomez already this season, with the England defender having guided them through Premier League and Champions League games.
And 17-year-old Billy Koumetio is another who could be pressed into first-team action.
Klopp said he was relieved to still have Phillips at Anfield, with several clubs having shown interest in signing the defender over the summer.
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“There were a lot of clubs interested in him and in the end, maybe because of the coronavirus crisis, nobody had the money to do it,” the manager said.
“But we expected him to leave the club, to be honest.
“Thank God he didn’t – but that’s the reason why he is not in the Champions League squad, the only reason.
“He cannot be on the bench in the Champions League but he is available for the Premier League like all three are, and now I have to make a decision.”
Liverpool will also be without Trent Alexander-Arnold for around four weeks after the right-back suffered a calf injury against Manchester City.
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