Jurgen Klopp‘s centre-back options are set to be stretched even thinner for Liverpool’s trip to Brighton, with Dejan Lovren sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Lovren was only named in the starting lineup for the Reds’ FA Cup third-round clash with Wolves on Monday night following the withdrawal of Jordan Henderson with a minor problem.
Unfortunately, Klopp’s gamble in handing the Croatian a sixth consecutive start failed as he limped off just six minutes into the 2-1 defeat at Molineux.
He was replaced by 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever, who lined up alongside Fabinho to produce an increasingly strong display, but his involvement underlined a lack of options for the manager.
Liverpool head to the Amex this weekend looking for another vital three points in the title hunt, and Klopp is expected to be without Lovren.
According to the Liverpool Echo, “no timescale has been put on Lovren’s recovery” but he “won’t be ready” for this weekend.
The club’s hope, however, is that his injury “isn’t too serious,” as Fabinho prepares to partner Virgil van Dijk against the Seagulls, as the fifth-choice alternative.
Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are already out, which could see Hoever named on the substitutes’ bench in Falmer as emergency cover.
There is positive news, however, in terms of a return date for Matip, who broke his collarbone in the last minute of the 1-0 win over Napoli in December.
The Evening Standard‘s David Lynch reports that while the Cameroonian won’t be back for Brighton, he has been pencilled in for the home clash with Crystal Palace next time out.
He could, therefore, resume his partnership with Van Dijk after a promising spell of games alongside each other after Gomez fractured his leg in the 3-1 win at Burnley.
Gomez is not due to be back in action this month, with his comeback instead expected for the start of February, though Lynch adds that may be earlier “dependent on his response to treatment.”
This could see the 21-year-old back away clash with West Ham on February 2, though the visit of Bournemouth on February 9 may be more realistic.
Either way, the return of Matip and Gomez, and hopefully Lovren in the near future, will be a major boost for Klopp after Liverpool endured a tough, busy festive schedule.
The Reds now face a much more comfortable fixture list, with lengthier breaks between the clashes with Palace (Jan 19) and Leicester (Jan 30) as well as Bournemouth (Feb 9) and Bayern Munich (Feb 19).
But that Champions League last-16 first leg against Bayern at Anfield will see Klopp without Van Dijk, with the defensive leader suspended.