Liverpool “have got a problem in central defence”, admits Mark Lawrenson, but now is not the time to be taking a Premier League gamble on 16-year-old “kid” Ki-Jana Hoever.
The highly-rated youngster was handed a senior debut by the Reds during an FA Cup third round clash with Wolves.
He impressed with his confidence and maturity, but also displayed the signs of inexperience which are to be expected in one so young.
With that in mind, and despite Jurgen Klopp being short of defensive options, Lawrenson believes it would be wrong to ask an academy star to step back into the side against a physical Brighton team on Saturday.
The former Reds defender told BBC Sport: “Liverpool have got a problem in central defence with Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip injured, and I suspect Fabinho will play there - I can't see what else Reds boss Jurgen Klopp would do.
“Ki-Jana Hoever did great when he came on for Lovren against Wolves, but you would not want to chuck a 16-year-old in at Brighton because he would have Glenn Murray to contend with.
“I know the Seagulls are not the most attacking team, and Liverpool turned them over easily at Amex Stadium last season, but Murray against a kid? No, he would have too much experience for him.”
While advising Klopp against any unnecessary selection risks, Lawrenson believes that further points could slip through Liverpool’s grasp on the south coast regardless of who the league leaders call upon.
He added: “This is a really good test for Liverpool, on the back of their defeat by Manchester City and then their defeat at Molineux after Klopp decided the FA Cup was not in his top two priorities.
“It would clearly be preferable for Liverpool to be at Anfield as they look to bounce back this weekend, especially because the thing about Brighton is that they are very good at stopping teams from playing.
“Brighton have got a good home record too, which is why I am going for a draw.
“I don't know whether this might be a little bump in the road for Liverpool but, if I am right and they drop points on Saturday, I would also back them to return to winning ways in their home games against Crystal Palace and Leicester before the end of the month.
“There are 11 days between the Palace and Leicester matches and, because Liverpool are out of the FA Cup, Klopp will be able to give his players a few days off to rest their bodies, and clear their heads.”
Liverpool remain four points clear at the top of the Premier League table at present and could stretch that lead for a brief period this weekend as closest challengers Manchester City are not in action until Monday.