According to reports from The Daily Mail, Liverpool’s injury crisis may well have just got a whole lot worse.
It’s claimed Reds defender Joe Gomez may have suffered a serious injury while on England duty, and with Virgil van Dijk already ruled out for the season and Trent Alexander-Arnold sidelined for around a month due to a calf complaint, the Liverpool backline that was so imperious last term is being quickly decimated.
Hopefully Fabinho, albeit a midfielder first and foremost, will be fit again after the international break. But even then, what exactly are the options available to Jurgen Klopp?
In a bid to make the best out of a bad situation, we outline three ways Liverpool’s starting XI could look in the absence of three top-class defenders when they take on Leicester City in the Premier League.
This option represents probably the likeliest line-up Klopp will field.
Neco Williams will be relishing the chance to get an extended run in the starting XI and prove he can be more than just a bit-part deputy to Trent Alexander-Arnold, while Fabinho is the obvious solution at centre-half having played there already this season, partnering Joel Matip.
The rest of the starting XI remains intact from Liverpool’s 1-1 draw against Manchester City last time out, although that midfield may be a little too open – leaving a very makeshift backline exposed.
Not too dissimilar to option A, albeit this one offering a bit more protection in midfield.
There is a fundamental difference at the back, too. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Fabinho made almost 100 appearances as a right-back for Monaco, so it might be wiser to play him on the edge of the defence rather than at its core.
That in turn opens up a space for Nathaniel Phillips, who was thoroughly impressive on his Premier League debut against West Ham – although Jamie Vardy offers a very different kind of threat to Sebastien Haller.
In midfield, meanwhile, the ever-reliable James Milner comes in to shore things up and provide a bit more natural cover for the right-back berth.
It may seem counter-intuitive to employ three central defenders when the last thing you need is for another to get injured, but as the old saying goes there is always strength in numbers.
In other words, playing three at the back will give Liverpool that extra element of sturdiness they need with so many key defenders missing – especially against Vardy who thrives on getting into the spaces between full-back and centre-half on the counter.
It also gives a bit more protection to Neco Williams who, although highly rated, has still only ever made six Premier League appearances before.
Fabinho’s a strong candidate for the right centre-back role, having played at both right-back and centre-half throughout his career, and although Phillips did absolutely nothing wrong against West Ham, this time we’re suggesting Rhys Williams instead to go on the other side of Joel Matip.
Phillips looks like a real no-nonsense defender but playing in a back three requires a bit of guile and composure in possession.
Whereas Phillips made nine clearances against the Hammers and only completed 81% of his passes, in the Champions League this season Williams has a passing accuracy of 87%, while averaging only one clearance per game.