Jurgen Klopp could face a big call over who to partner Nat Phillips with at centre-back in Thursday’s clash with Man United, as Ozan Kabak is “highly unlikely” to be back fit.
Kabak is one of four new injuries within the Liverpool squad, pulling out of contention ahead of Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Southampton along with James Milner, Naby Keita and Ben Davies.
With fixtures coming at an average of one every 3.2 days in the final weeks of the season, any turnaround in terms of recovery is set to be tight.
United are next up, with the rearranged fixture to be held at Old Trafford on Thursday night, and Kabak is a major doubt.
The Athletic‘s James Pearce has described it as “highly unlikely” the 21-year-old will be fit, revealing that he has suffered a muscle injury, believed to be during training.
It is no surprise, but highlights a difficult decision for Klopp as he weighs up his centre-back options for a must-win clash.
Rhys Williams partnered Phillips at the weekend, but the pair are decidedly slow and could be punished by the speed of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, along with the ingenuity of Edinson Cavani.
There is already evidence of this, of course, with Williams struggling in the 3-2 loss to United in the FA Cup in January.
But with Kabak out and Davies, even if he returns, unanimously untrusted, Klopp must decide between either keeping faith in Williams or shifting Fabinho back from midfield.
This would be a risk in itself, with the manager acknowledging on a regular basis how deploying Fabinho at centre-back earlier in the campaign disrupted the balance of his side, but it may be necessary.
Youngster Billy Koumetio is set to keep his place on the substitutes’ bench, with the terms of Sepp van den Berg‘s loan deal with Preston unlikely to allow him to return to Liverpool this season, despite the Championship campaign concluding.
United have a major centre-back problem of their own ahead of back-to-back clashes with Leicester and Liverpool, with Harry Maguire due to miss out after picking up an ankle injury in Sunday’s 3-1 win at Aston Villa.
“It might be a few weeks, it might be a couple of days, we don’t know,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after the game.
“Hopefully it won’t be too bad, but I’m not a doctor, and we’ve got to scan him on Monday. He may be available on Thursday, but I don’t know, it might be longer.”
If Maguire is out, Eric Bailly is the most likely player to come in alongside Victor Lindelof.