KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 23, 2016: Liverpool's Joe Gomez in action against Burnley during the Lancashire Senior Cup 2nd Round match at the Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Joe Gomez set for Liverpool first-team return this winter

Joe Gomez was substituted at half-time in the Liverpool U23s’ 3-2 win over Arsenal U23s, in a planned move by the Reds’ backroom.

Gomez has recently made his return from a long-term ACL injury, and has been turning out for the U23s in a bid to recapture form and fitness.

The former Charlton Athletic youngster has been a revelation in the Young Reds’ defence, producing a series of excellent performances alongside the likes of Tiago Ilori and Mamadou Sakho.

But with Dejan Lovren forced off the field during Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with West Ham United on Sunday, Gomez could be in line for a return to the first-team setup.

After regularly playing all 90 minutes for the U23s in recent weeks, Gomez was replaced by Corey Whelan at the interval at Anfield, suggesting he is being considered for Wednesday night’s senior clash with Middlesbrough.

This was confirmed to be a move planned by the club, not one enforced by injury.

Gomez should make the trip to Riverside, and if Lovren misses out, could make Klopp’s substitutes’ bench for the first time since the German’s arrival last October.

Ragnar Klavan is the most likely partner for Joel Matip against Middlesbrough, with Gomez joining Lucas Leiva in reserve.

Klopp has been beset with injuries this winter, with the 49-year-old bemoaning the strength of his bench against West Ham.

Emre Can, Marko Grujic, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings are all sidelined, with Lovren another possible absentee during what is a crucial period for the Reds.

SANTA CLARA, USA - Saturday, July 30, 2016: Liverpool's Joe Gomez before the International Champions Cup 2016 game against AC Milan on day ten of the club's USA Pre-season Tour at the Levi's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp had previously suggested that Gomez would spend the rest of the season with the U23s squad, however, with a January loan move ruled out.

“We have had a very good talk. What I think about Joe Gomez is he is an unbelievable talent,” Klopp explained.

“It’s a long injury and if we send him on loan, with his quality, a team will play him every game. That is not what he needs in the moment.

“Because he was long injured, he needs us to judge now to play, now to stop, rest, work on this, do this, do a little bit on this.”

As such, Klopp is unlikely to be rash with Gomez’s transition back into the first team, instead taking a sensitive approach to his injury issues.

But as Gomez has shown no signs of struggling for the U23s so far, Klopp could be tempted to accelerate his initial plans.

Gomez has already proved himself at first-team level, shining at left-back for Brendan Rodgers following his £3.5 million move from Charlton last season.

But having been utilised exclusively at centre-back this campaign, he looks set for a long-term role at the heart of Klopp’s defence.

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