A radical solution to the defensive injury crisis may have been in sight in Liverpool.


Joe Gomez and 19-year-old Rhys Williams are about to become the 36th other central defender partnership to start a game for the Reds under Jurgen Klopp.

If Tuesday’s 10,000th goal for the club was the main focus of the Liverpoolers, this weekend may be about a different number.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has to find new solutions after Fabinho joined Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip on the sidelines.

Klopp has already indicated, however, that he will not risk Matip – who has been absent for two weeks – or Fabinho for West Ham United’s Premier League visit on Saturday night.

The Brazilian has joined Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip on the sideline, while Liverpool is waiting for the results of a scan to determine the extent of the damage.

The pairing of Gomez’s number 35 with Fabinho ended prematurely on Tuesday when the latter was replaced by Williams, who limped with a suspected hamstring problem half an hour after a 2-0 Champions League win over Midtjylland FC in Anfield.

Much of this is, of course, due to Van Dijk’s durability, which was shattered last week by Jordan Pickford’s ill-considered challenge, which left the Liverpool native with anterior cruciate ligament damage and is unlikely to let him play this season.

It remains one of the most amazing – and telling – statistics of this Liverpool side that Gomez and Matip, as a pair of central defenders, have never started a game together.

But Klopp has a number of other options.

Gomez is now the only senior international still available, as Williams – who has started twice in the Carabao Cup but is still waiting for his Premier League debut – has taken the next place in the line ahead of Nat Phillips, Sepp van den Berg and 17-year-old Billy Koumetio, who was recently injured.

Jordan Henderson, who was replaced at halftime in the middle of the week to ease his workload after missing almost two months in the summer due to a knee complaint, could partner Gomez in the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final win over Monterrey in Qatar in December.

However, with Fabinho absent, Thiago Alcantara still unavailable, Naby Keita unlikely to return in time, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain long absent and James Milner having gone 90 minutes midweek, Klopp has valuable other midfield alternatives.

However, another approach could be for the Reds’ boss to take advantage of the tactical flexibility that has become increasingly commonplace in recent weeks.

However, with only one fit central defender available to the senior national team, something more radical might be required.

Liverpool deviated from their usual 4-3-3 approach and switched to 4-2-3-1 against Sheffield United last weekend as they tried to find a place for the in-form Diogo Jota in the starting lineup.

With Gomez ill, Matip injured and Ragnar Klavan only good enough for the bench, Dejan Lovren was backed by Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum.

After some initial teething troubles, Liverpool – with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, who only made this third league start for the Reds on the wing benches – strolled to a 5-1 success. Within a month Van Dijk had been signed, and the danger of a possible replay had disappeared until now.

The last time Liverpool were in a similar situation at a Premier League game, Klopp threw a curveball in Brighton and Hove Albion in December 2017, playing a three-way match against Brighton and Hove Albion.


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