For Jurgen Klopp, the last thing he needs is another injury to one of the pillars of his Liverpool defence.
Unfortunately, that’s precisely what happened during the win over FC Midtjylland with Fabinho forced off with a hamstring problem.
The Brazilian, who has been outstanding in midfield during the club’s successes of the past two seasons, has recently been ushered back into the heart of the back line, deputising for Virgil van Dijk following his (likely) season-ending ACL injury sustained against Everton.
Fabinho, alongside Joe Gomez, impressed against Ajax in the Champions League opener, as the Reds claimed a 1-0 win in Amsterdam in last week.
And he again partnered Gomez in the 2-1 win over Sheffield United at the weekend.
The meeting with the Danes at Anfield was the third successive match in which the pair had started together, as Klopp looked to further grow their relationship.
However, the ex-Monaco man lasted just 30 minutes before having to be taken off, replaced by youngster Rhys Williams at the heart of defence.
Mirror Football details the latest situation surrounding Fabinho, Liverpool’s defence and what’s next…
What did Jurgen Klopp say?
Speaking immediately after the 2-0 win, Klopp remarked that Fabinho had offered to play through the pain.
“He felt his hamstring, and that’s not good,” said Klopp.
“He said he could have played on but no sprints, which doesn’t help.
“We’re doing really well but it’s a shock for a team because now we have to sort that injury.”
Klopp added: “Muscle injuries are like this, you get the result tomorrow morning probably, we have to wait for that.”
What did the scans say?
The Brazil international underwent a scan on Wednesday morning and, as first reported by Mirror Football’s David Maddock, the scans ruled out a grade three hamstring tear (the most severe level).
Instead they showed it to be far less of a problem, and that Fabinho, with rest and rehab, should be OK to return after the November international break.
So what games will he miss?
He certainly won’t be back in action against West Ham this weekend, nor for the Champions League meeting with free-scoring Atalanta in midweek.
Barring the most unlikely of comebacks, and a decision to take one hell of a long-term risk, he won’t be involved against Manchester City before the international break either.
So Joel Matip returns then?
Not initially, no.
The former Schalke man has had his own injury issues, and with the matches against Atalanta and City on the horizon, Klopp is reticent to throw him straight in against West Ham this weekend.
“If it was one game at the end of the season, we could probably [use Matip].
“But we have a game three days later. The players need a proper build-up.”
As such, while the ideal for Klopp would be to pair Matip with Gomez against the Hammers, a return against Atalanta is more likely.
Liverpool are keen to repeat last season’s success – and you don’t want to miss a thing, surely?
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It’s been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.
Virgil van Dijk’s season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson’s injury worries too.
But there’s no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.
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So, what’s Liverpool’s next step?
Against West Ham, the most likely option appears to be handing Rhys Williams his Premier League bow.
The teenager has impressed during pre-season, forcing his way ahead of Nathaniel Phillips and Sepp van der Berg in the pecking order, and was the man who replaced Fabinho against the Danes on Tuesday.
Klopp labelled the 19-year-old’s 60-minute display as “pretty exceptional.”
“He’s a talent, he plays for England U20s, he’s 19 years old. He didn’t play in the Premier League yet and has now two Champions League appearances. He did well, everything looks promising.”
Williams, who played senior football for Kidderminster Harriers last season before the campaign was cut short due to coronavirus, had been on the bench against Ajax last week, then played for the Under-23s on Saturday against Chelsea.
Jamie Carragher, analysing for CBS this week said: “What he does give you is a great size and great aerial ability that Fabinho or Joe Gomez don’t give you.”
Against West Ham, with Michail Antonio (if fit) or Sebastian Haller potentially leading the attack, and Tomas Soucek advancing from deep, Liverpool will likely have to deal with crosses; for Williams, standing 6ft 5in, this might be the ideal Premier League bow.
One possible could be to drop Jordan Henderson or even Gini Wijnaldum into the heart of defence.
Certainly it’s far from ideal, but both have played their before. With options in midfield, it’s something for Klopp to think about.
Phillips, 23, is also in the mix. He spent last season on loan at Stuttgart in the second tier of German football, and boasts greater senior experience than Williams.
He has not been on the bench in the Champions League as he wasn’t named in the squad for the group stage, because a loan move had been lined up.
Phillips was on the bench against Sheffield United last week, while Williams played for the Under-23s.
If Klopp wants to stick with a recognised centre-half with greater experience, then Phillips, who may not be as tall as Williams but is a more physical, hands-on defender, may get the nod.
However, it’s worth remembering that Williams got the nod in the Carabao Cup over Phillips earlier in the season too.
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