The international break is almost on the verge of ending and footballers are about to return to usual club football in Europe. However, during these breaks it is being observed that there has been an increase of Covid-19 positive cases among the footballers from various countries, resulting in the players staying in quarantine and missing a number of games for their club and country. In addition to that, players have been suffering injuries due to fixture congestion and lack of rest. Injury problems at Liverpool are one of the serious issues at the EPL club due to this tight schedule, as many of their regular players are currently out of the squad due to injury or being positive from the virus, resulting in a tougher job in hand for their manager Jurgen Klopp. Currently, there are eight players from the Liverpool side who are out of playing football and are likely to miss the team’s next match after the international break. In addition to that, most of the injured players of Liverpool are not expected to return to the field before mid-December. Among the eight players that Liverpool is currently missing, they have four of their regular defenders injured – Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson, and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Apart from that, midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho, and Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain are also injured and their talisman Mohamed Salah is out being for COVID-19 positive. With so many of their regular players injured and important matches coming up in the next two weeks against Leicester City, Wolves, Ajax, or Atalanta, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has to improvise a lot to field is starting XI in the upcoming matches.
Detailed insight into Injury Problems at Liverpool: When the players are expected to return?
The injury nightmare started when Virgil van Dijk, their leader in defense suffered an ACL injury against Everton at Goodison Park during an away fixture against their city rivals in Premier League this season in October. The defender suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament when he ran into Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, as a result, he was subbed out in the eleventh minute of the game and had to undergo knee surgery. A few days later, the club published the news of the surgery being completed successfully and the player has been recovering well, but there is no concrete news about his expected return. According to several sources, it may take for the player till April 2021 to fully recover, but he still might be out of playing football for the rest of the season and there is not much hope for him returning to the field before next season, given the severeness of his injury.
If Virgil van Dijk’s injury was not enough for the Scousers, their second hit came when another defender Joe Gomez suffered a tendon injury on his left knee during a practice session with England national football team during the international break in the second week of November. The following day he had undergone surgery and the successful completion of the surgery was published by the club, but it was also informed to the fans by the club that he is not likely to return before June 2021. His condition is being currently monitored by the club’s medical team and he will soon join a rehabilitation program. After both of their regular centre backs’ being sidelined by such long term injury, the Reds’ are no doubt in very big trouble.
In addition to that, their right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold suffered a calf muscle injury during the team’s last match before the international break against Manchester City and is out for four weeks. The right-back’s injury is not as serious as his other two teammates and is expected to return during the second week of December. But he will still miss some of the clubs’ vital matches this season against Leicester City and Wolves in the Premier League and Ajax and Atalanta in the Champions League. The most recent addition to the list of the Reds’ injured defender is Andrew Robertson, who suffered an injury during the international break. Robertson was completely fit when he joined his national side Scotland for the international matches in November, but recently Scotland manager confirmed about his injury saying “Andy Robertson is the most doubtful out of the ones who have a wee question mark over them” and was left out of the squad for his country’s clash against Slovakia. Robertson is facing some hamstring difficulties, but the full extent of his injuries is still unknown and his recovery time is not officially announced yet by his club or his national team.
Apart from the injuries of the first-team defenders, Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah has been tested positive for coronavirus a week ago which puts the player out of the time for at least two weeks or more. Their defensive midfielder Fabinho, who has also played as a part-time centre back this season for the club is out due to a hamstring injury and their newly signed midfielder Thiago Alcantara has been in and out of the squad due to injuries since joining the Scousers from Bayern Munich and hasn’t played since the away game against Everton due to another knee injury. Although Fabinho and Thiago are expected to return from their current injury during the third week of November, there was no sign of them in the club’s recent training session at their newly opened AXA Training Centre at Kirkby.
Problem in defense: How will Jurgen Klopp solve these Injury Problems at Liverpool?
It is true that Liverpool won two major trophies in the last two seasons – the UEFA Champions League in 2019 and English Premier League in 2020, ending a drought of 29 years for the trophy under Jurgen Klopp, but it is also true that Jurgen Klopp had a pretty thin squad at his disposal during last three seasons and he doesn’t have many back-up options for every position in his squad, especially in the defensive area. During his most glorious time at the club in the last two years, his back four was almost unchanged in most of the matches where he fielded Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, and Trent Alexander-Arnold regularly. Joe Gomez took a little longer to ensure his starting XI spot, while Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip were chosen earlier to partner with Van Dijk but Gomez has established himself as the permanent starter along with Van Dijk, Robertson, and Alexander-Arnold since last season. However, Klopp was never forced to face such a situation where all the players of his regular back four were injured at once. However, Klopp’s side is currently sitting at the third position in the league table with just one point behind table leaders Leicester City who will also be their next opponent. The only thing in Jurgen Klopp’s mind right now is to field an efficient defensive setup to manage to win the next match or at least manage to pull out a draw. The manager obviously needs to shuffle his pack from the available first-team players or may bring some youth team players to play for the first team. He also might consider changing his formation from his favourite 4-3-3 to a more defensive 3-5-2 or 5-3-2. We’ll look into what are the current options available to play in defence for the Reds’ manager.
What are the Available first-team choices for Klopp amidst these Injury Problems at Liverpool?
Joel Matip – Centre Back
Joel Matip will definitely start for The Reds as he is the only experienced centre back currently fit to play. Jurgen Klopp will definitely expect him to lead the Reds’ defence with his experience and accuracy and it will be a huge task for the Cameroon defender. The fans will have more expectations from him in the absence of both Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
Nathaniel Phillips – Centre Back
If Fabinho doesn’t fully recover before the game against Leicester City, Nathaniel Phillips is the one who is expected to partner Joel Matip. He joined the club from VfB Stuttgart this summer and has played only one match for them. Jurgen Klopp had to give him more match time sooner or later, and the breakthrough might arrive for the player in such a moment of crisis. If Phillips can manage to impress the manager, he might become the second regular starter with Matip during the absence of Van Dijk and Gomez for the rest of the season.
James Milner – Left Back/ Right Back
Veteran Liverpool midfielder James Milner has previously played in the full-back position under Jurgen Klopp multiple times and under current circumstances, Klopp will definitely want to bring the 34 years old back in the starting XI. Given the full extent of Andrew Robertson’s injury which is not fully known, if the player misses the next match, Milner will be Klopp’s first preference to start at the left-back position. Given the players’ versatility, as he can also play on the right side, he will be definitely one of the members of the defensive quartet.
Neco Williams – Right Back
19 years old Neco Williams is a right-back whom Jurgen Klopp might think of using in absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold, another high-profile loss due to injury problems at Liverpool. He is a player from Liverpool’s youth team and was considered as Trent’s back up for this season. This current injury problem might give him the much-desired breakthrough for the senior team. Although the Welshman was seen to be sitting on the bench during Wales’ 3-1 Nations League victory against Finland after their coach Rob Page revealed that Williams had taken a kick to the foot during the match against the Republic of Ireland on Sunday, it seems to be nothing serious as of now.
Konstantionos Tsimikas – Left Back
Konstantinos Tsimikas was signed by Liverpool during the last transfer window from Olympiacos to increase the bench strength of the Scousers. The left-back hasn’t seen any action since joining the club. But he is definitely an option for Jurgen Klopp to be considered amidst the injury problems at Liverpool.
Sepp van den Berg – Centre Back
18-year-old Sepp van den Berg is a promising centre back from Liverpool’s under-19 team who might get a first-team call during the current crisis. The Dutch player is a regular starter for Liverpool under-19 team and Jurgen Klopp has his eyes on him.
Injury Problems at Liverpool: What is the Long-Term Solution?
Although there are a number of young players are available at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal, none of them except Matip is experienced enough to be an undisputed starter for his team amidst the injury problems at Liverpool. The manager and Liverpool management might be considering to sign a key player for the centre back position who can lead the backline during the absence of Virgil van Dijk. Given the long term injury of Van Dijk and Gomez, it is a more realistic choice to be considered and very much to be expected as Klopp’s highest priority. There are ongoing rumours about Dayot Upamecano and Kalidou Koulibaly being linked with the club, although there are players like Willi Orban and Ozan Kabak who are also under the clubs’ radar. Upamecano could be the perfect choice for them under current circumstances but the player won’t be a cheap buy in any possible way. For this reason, the club might go for a less expensive option Schalke’s Ozan Kabak or Upamecano’s teammate at RB Leipzig, Willi Orban.
Despite having a thin squad and few backup options, it is true that Jurgen Klopp managed to do very well during the last two seasons but at the same time he and his players were extremely lucky with injuries. The Gegenpressing style of gameplay Klopp implemented with his Liverpool squad, makes players take huge workload and physical pressure. Klopp didn’t have a strong bench and didn’t rotate his squad more often while his players managed to take this huge workload and still the key players maintained to remain fit to win two back-to-back major trophies in the last two seasons. However, right now the situation is completely different for Jurgen Klopp, and we’ll have to wait to see how he manages to set his squad or his strategy in order to cope with this crisis and still maintain the club’s high standard of performance which was delivered in the last few seasons.
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