Klopp's squad reduced down to its bare bones after nightmare week

Neco Williams and Nat Phillips will have to keep in-form Jamie Vardy at bay, while 34-year-old James Milner could make his first top-flight start this season against Leicester as Jurgen Klopp’s squad is reduced down to its bare bones after nightmare week

  • Jurgen Klopp could be without up to nine regular starters against Leicester 
  • Liverpool had already lost five players to injury before the latest internationals 
  • Virgil Van Dijk, Thiago and Fabinho were among those injured in that period 
  • But Joe Gomez joined them last week while Jordan Henderson is also a concern
  • Here, Sportsmail runs you through all the fitness headaches Klopp is facing 

Jurgen Klopp is facing the most severe injury crisis of his managerial tenure at Liverpool with several of his stars missing ahead of the return of Premier League and Champions League action.

Klopp’s men currently sit third in the table, a point behind leaders and Sunday’s opponents Leicester, but will now head into a crucial chunk of the season following the latest international break.

The Premier League champions enjoyed a stellar campaign last season but have not had much luck with player fitness this time round, and are looking at the bare bones for the time being as they look to return to the top of the table.

Jurgen Klopp is facing his worst injury crisis at Liverpool ahead of the Premier League return

Klopp could be forced to play Neco Williams with Trent Alexander-Arnold out injured

The Reds are still facing uncertainty over the status of at least nine regular starters ahead of the clash against Brendan Rodgers’ men, and will therefore be forced to field the likes of Neco Williams and Nat Phillips and task the inexperienced duo with keeping Jamie Vardy from adding to his eight top-flight goals already this season.

There could well be doubts over Williams filling in for Alexander-Arnold after Wales caretaker boss Robert Page said the young right-back has a knock on his foot after a heavy kick in the weekend match against Ireland. Williams was only on the bench for Wednesday’s match against Finland.

Williams, 19, featured in six Premier League games last season but has yet to figure in the top-flight this campaign, despite Champions League and Carabao Cup appearances already in 2020-21. 

Phillips meanwhile made his Premier League bow for the Anfield club in the narrow win against West Ham after spending last year out on loan at Stuttgart. 

Nat Phillips made his Premier League bow against West Ham and may feature against Leicester

James Milner could also make his first Premier League start this season in midfield for Klopp

At the other end of the experience spectrum, James Milner has yet to start a Premier League game this season but the current issues – which began well before the players jetted off for the latest round of matches with their countries – could see the veteran fill in in midfield.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the player who has been sat on the sidelines the longest after damaging knee ligaments in pre-season in August, with the England midfielder having missed 14 games for his club and eight games for Gareth Southgate’s men.

Sportsmail understands the 27-year-old is still a few weeks away from making a return, with his injury-plagued spell at the Reds since joining from Arsenal in 2017 continuing and reducing him to just 87 Anfield appearances.  

The injury situation at the club was then exacerbated in the most horrendous fashion possible two months later when Virgil Van Dijk suffered a likely season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury early on in the Merseyside derby following a reckless tackle from Jordan Pickford. 

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been out of action since pre-season with knee ligament damage

The first major injury came in a horrible manner when Virgil Van Dijk was injured last month

The Dutchman suffered knee ligament damage after a reckless foul from Jordan Pickford

A double whammy was suffered by the Reds against Everton after star midfielder Thiago also picked up a knee injury after Richarlison’s poorly-executed challenge resulted in a red card for the Brazilian and left the Spaniard in a heap on the floor. 

A disheartened Klopp admitted in the week after the fiery and ill-tempered derby that any side would miss Van Dijk because he is the world’s best defender, but backed midfielder Fabinho to provide excellent cover alongside Joe Gomez.

POSSIBLE LIVERPOOL XI TO FACE LEICESTER

(4-3-3) Alisson; Neco Williams, Matip, Nat Phillips, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Milner, Keita; Mane, Firmino, Jota

But soon the German’s options at centre-backs became even more restricted as Fabinho picked up a hamstring injury and was forced off in their Champions League clash with Midtjylland just 10 days after the blow to Van Dijk.

Sportsmail understands the 27-year-old former Monaco star is close to returning to Klopp’s squad, but given that he has been out for a month – which resulted in him missing Brazil’s internationals this month – the club are unlikely to risk him until they are sure he has regained full fitness. 

Thiago is still responding to treatment and he too has been carefully managed having not featured since the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park, but reports have suggested there is optimism he will be available soon.

Liverpool would suffer a fifth injury in the game before the international break, with right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold sustaining an issue to his hamstring in the draw at Manchester City.

The 22-year-old star therefore missed England’s triple-header during the current hiatus and is expected to be out for another three weeks, but perhaps the last thing Klopp would have wanted – or needed – was his players flying off to all parts of the world and risk catching coronavirus or picking up a knock.

Yet it was at St George’s Park where the Reds were hit with their latest significant blow.

Joe Gomez was in England training on Wednesday last week when he suffered an injury with no one else around him.

Midfielder Thiago was also injured in the same game after a poor challenge from Richarlison

Liverpool’s defensive injury crisis got worse when Fabino limped off against Midtjylland

The central defender had surgery to repair the patellar tendon in his left knee, which was deemed a success by Liverpool, but nonetheless added to their ever-increasing list of absentees.

As Gomez had the procedure surgeons did not discover any damage to his cruciate, medial or lateral ligaments.

As such, Liverpool will not rule Gomez out for the season but he faces a challenge to be fit for the Euros next summer, while Southgate revealed he talked with Klopp about the ‘tragic’ injury and his concern for player welfare given the current schedule.

But that was not to say that the Reds did not suffer other issues ahead of their return to domestic and European competitions.

Star forward Mohamed Salah added to the mounting issues for Klopp after testing positive for coronavirus for a second time on Wednesday.

Liverpool were five down when Trent Alexander-Arnold suffered an issue at Manchester City

The club was then rocked again by a serious injury to Joe Gomez while on international duty

The Reds forward has been in self isolation with mild symptoms in his native Egypt since Friday and missed the country’s Africa Cup of Nations double-header qualifier against Togo.

The Liverpool star had been training with his national team after reportedly attending his brother’s wedding in Cairo last Monday, which he was slammed for by former Egypt forward Mido for ‘neglect’.

The Egyptian health ministry had indicated that Salah could have returned to his club this week if he had tested negative for the virus on Thursday, but will now have to remain in his home country after returning another positive test.

Captain Jordan Henderson meanwhile limped out of England’s Nations League defeat by Belgium two days after Salah’s positive test, before withdrawing from the squad on Monday.

Mohamed Salah then tested positive for coronavirus on Friday after attending a wedding

The midfielder underwent a scan on Tuesday, with Liverpool hopeful that it is nothing too serious but it currently appears that he is facing a battle to face his former boss Brendan Rodgers at the weekend as well as Serie A outfit Atalanta in midweek.

Klopp’s problems were compounded further when Andy Robertson skipped Scotland’s defeat to Slovakia after leading his country to Euro 2020 and their first major tournament in 22 years with a play-off victory against Serbia.

The left-back travelled with the squad to Israel and will be assessed when he returns to Liverpool, and should he miss out it would give summer signing Kostas Tsimikas his first league start of the season.

Rhys Williams then provided the club with another injury scare England Under 21 boss Aidy Boothroyd sent the 19-year-old back to Liverpool with a small hip problem.

The move was understood to be precautionary for a minor issue and is therefore expected to be on the bench at the very least on Saturday. 


Jordan Henderson (left) and Andy Robertson (right) missed their countries’ games this week

Rhys Williams was then sent back by England U21s to Liverpool due to a minor hip problem

The list is currently a bruising read and the issues may not yet be over, with Roberto Firmino still on his way back from Brazil’s game against Uruguay.

However, should the Brazilian recover from the long journeys to and from South America in time he will join compatriot Alisson as well as Georginio Wijnaldum, Robertson, Naby Keita, Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane as the only regulars available to Klopp.

Liverpool have three wins from three in their Champions Leaqgue group and will qualify if they beat Atalanta, while a favourable fixture list for the next month at least should be of some comfort.

But Klopp will hope the current strain on his medical staff is not a sign of things to come, with the German needing as many of his stars available as soon as possible to continue the challenge on three fronts. 

Roberto Firmino may provide another headache for Klopp as he returns from Brazil duty

But if fit he will join Diogo Jota (right) and Sadio Mane (left) as one of the few regulars available




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