First Van Dijk, now Fabinho? Liverpool's injury woes leave Klopp facing defensive disaster

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Fabinho Jurgen Klopp Williams Liverpool 2020-21 GFX
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The Brazilian, who has been deputising at centre-half for the injured Dutchman, was forced off just 28 minutes into Tuesday's 2-0 win over Midtjylland

Jurgen Klopp could be forgiven for wondering where his luck has gone.

It’s been all smiles for so long at Liverpool, but its grimaces and frowns at Anfield right now. And it has nothing to do with results, either.

The Reds won again on Tuesday, nudging their way past a spirited FC Midtjylland in their first home Champions League game of the season. 

Their 2-0 triumph wasn’t pretty, secured courtesy of second-half goals from Diogo Jota and substitute Mohamed Salah, but it puts them in a commanding position in their group.  

Victory, though, may well have come at a cost.

Liverpool’s problems at centre-back are well known, and the sight of Fabinho limping off here does little to soothe their concerns. 

The Brazilian, filling in at the back following injuries to others, lasted just 28 minutes before pulling up with a problem. He fell to the turf, shook his head and appeared to clutch at the back of his right leg.

A hamstring, perhaps? That’s the last thing Jurgen Klopp needs right now.

"He (Fabinho) said he could have played on, but no sprints, which doesn't help," the manager lamented afterwards. "We'll see what happens. We'll know more after a scan."

With Virgil van Dijk out for months and Joel Matip still not back in training after a mysterious muscle injury sustained on his return to first-team action at Everton 10 days ago, Liverpool’s defensive options are stretched to the limit.

Joe Gomez is their only fit senior centre-back; the England international can expect to be wrapped in cotton wool ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with West Ham.

Gomez was partnered for the last hour here by Rhys Williams, a 19-year-old who has come through the Reds’ academy; one that spent the whole of last season on loan with Kidderminster in the National League North, English football’s sixth professional tier. 

On Saturday, Williams was playing, and scoring, for Barry Lewtas’ under-23 side against Chelsea at Kirkby, but here he was, three days later, thrust into action on the big stage. His Champions League debut came as a late substitute at Ajax on Matchday One, but this was a more substantial taste for the teenager.

He handled it well enough. There are shades of Van Dijk about his game: he is relaxed on the ball, competes well in the air and passes with confidence. He is also, as academy staff and team-mates will testify, an excellent talker on the field.

Liverpool look like they will need him now. After West Ham at the weekend they travel to Atalanta next Tuesday, in a meeting of Group D’s top two. Next up, on November 8, comes the one they’ve all been waiting for, a visit to the Etihad to face Manchester City.

Jordan Henderson, Liverpool vs Midtjylland

Perhaps Fabinho will be back by then. Perhaps Matip’s issue will have cleared up too. And perhaps the return of midfielders, chiefly Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita, will enable Klopp to get creative with a left-field defensive option, Jordan Henderson maybe?

However, these are dilemmas the manager could well do without, especially so early in the campaign. We are less than two months into this most challenging of seasons, and Liverpool are being forced to mend and make do.

They made do here, just as made do against Sheffield United on Saturday and in Amsterdam prior to that. The clean sheet will have pleased Klopp, as will news of Atalanta’s 2-2 draw with Ajax in Italy. A positive result in Bergamo next week will put Liverpool in a great position to secure early qualification from Group D. 

Before that, though, he will hope for better news from his medical team. He’ll hope the aches and the strains and the bumps and the bruises are nothing more.

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This was always going to be a complicated season, but he can’t have imagined he’d be in this position before the end of October. Who’d be a manager, eh? 

The good news is, Liverpool keep on winning. 

Injuries hurt, whether you're a great side or an indifferent one. Victories, though, are the best painkiller there is.

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