No clean sheets in 11 games & Fabinho injured - Should Liverpool fans be worried?

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Virgil van Dijk Liverpool
Wednesday night's 1-1 draw with Napoli means that the Reds have now played 22 games in all competitions this season and kept just three clean sheets

Jurgen Klopp was in no mood for smiles and laughter this time.

“Is someone going to ask an interesting question?” he asked, as his post-match press conference drew to a close.

The Liverpool manager looked like a man who’d lost a fiver and found a pound. This, clearly, was not the evening he had hoped for. 

Yes, his team had once more showcased their powers of recovery, coming from behind to secure a 1-1 draw at home to Napoli thanks to Dejan Lovren’s second-half header. Say what you like about the Reds, but their energy reserves are immense.

And yes, they remain masters of their own Champions League destiny. Avoid defeat in Salzburg on December 10 and they will be into the last 16. Win, and they will progress as Group E winners.

So why the long face, Jurgen?

“Well, it was clear that we wanted to finish it tonight,” said the Reds boss. “But that’s football; you don’t always get the result you want.” 

You can say that again. If some draws can feel like victories, others feel like defeats. This one fell into the latter category.

Not only did Liverpool fail to “finish” the group off – victory would have sent them through, making the Salzburg game redundant – but they lost a key player to injury too.

Fabinho left the stadium with his left ankle in a protective boot following an accidental clash with Napoli forward Hirving Lozano.

Fabinho Liverpool PS

“He has pain, so that’s not good,” Klopp said. “I hope that it is not serious but we will know more, maybe tomorrow [Thursday], maybe the day after.”

The Brazilian is already suspended for Saturday’s trip to Brighton, but with nine games to come in December, starting with a Merseyside derby against Everton next Wednesday, this injury could not come at a worse time.

Klopp certainly won’t want to go to Salzburg and face the free-scoring Erling Braut Haaland without his midfield anchor. The idea of a long-term problem – ligament damage, say – doesn’t bear thinking about.

He already has concerns elsewhere. He is still without Joel Matip due to injury and needs to find a way to keep his full-backs fresh without taking too many risks.

He would also, one suspects, quite like to see Joe Gomez find some confidence and form, or see Mohamed Salah rediscover his golden touch in and around the penalty area.

And he’d love to his team to improve their defensive record, too.

Liverpool have now played 22 games in all competitions this season, but have kept only three clean sheets. None of those have come at Anfield, where in all 10 fixtures the ‘both teams to score’ bet has paid out.

Given how mean the Reds were last season, and considering the likes of Norwich, Newcastle and Genk have all visited this term, that is a surprising statistic to say the least. Alisson Becker kept 27 clean sheets last season; he's yet to record one so far this time around.

Indeed, Liverpool's last shutout anywhere came at Sheffield United on September 28 – 11 games ago. Their others came at Burnley on the last day of August, and with a shadow side against MK Dons in the Carabao Cup a few weeks later. 

Joel Matip Liverpool PS

Sure, they are not exactly haemorrhaging goals – only Leicester have conceded fewer in the Premier League this season – but they are having to score at least two to win games at the moment. They are more than capable of doing so, but they'd rather not have to – at least not every week.

“We can’t keep doing it,” said Andy Robertson after the win over Crystal Palace last weekend, while Gini Wijnaldum has suggested that players can be drained, mentally and physically, by continually having to do things the hard way. 

“You battle with your body,” said the Dutchman after the dramatic victory at Aston Villa. “It’s hard, really hard.”

These are minor quibbles perhaps, given Liverpool's lofty league position. How can you argue with a team that has 37 points from 39 this season, and has picked up 101 across its last 38 league games? If they put themselves under pressure, they also show they can handle it.

“We have had it always,” Klopp said here. “I am here four years, tell me when was it easy?”

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He has a point. Liverpool are used to playing on the edge, whether it's for Champions League qualification, Champions League progression or the pursuit of that Premier League title.

Against Salzburg in a fortnight’s time, they must walk the tightrope once more. 

What would Klopp give for a clean sheet at the Red Bull Arena, one wonders...