Jurgen Klopp has defended the decision to have just three senior centre-backs in his Liverpool squad following the serious knee injury sustained by Virgil van Dijk.
Van Dijk requires surgery on an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in last weekend’s Merseyside Derby and is expected to be sidelined for several months, with no timescale set for his return as he prepares for a lengthy rehabilitation.
The Premier League champions decided against replacing the departed Dejan Lovren in the summer, though Van Dijk’s absence now leaves Liverpool with just Joel Matip and Joe Gomez as established centre-back options, a huge concern given the lack of depth and the injury records of the pair.
Matip will miss tonight’s Champions League group stage opener against Ajax after also picking up a knock in the weekend draw at Everton, with midfielder Fabinho expected to deputise alongside Gomez.
Despite his limited options, Klopp has defended his decision to head into the new season with just three senior centre-backs and says the club will look for ‘solutions’ as they bid to cope with Van Dijk’s extended absence.
“Yes, we went in the season with three centre-halves, plus Fabinho as a cover, plus young kids as cover. That’s usually quite a good number. As a football club, it’s difficult to have four world-class centre-halves.
“Immediately on one side it’s pretty expensive, [and] for the other side one of them doesn’t play for a long, long time. That’s pretty difficult because it’s not a position you rotate too much, so it’s a tricky one. You cannot have the solutions always before you have the problem.
"Only two people are dealing with the consequences – Virgil van Dijk & Thiago Alcantara." #LFC manager Jurgen Klopp says Everton's challenges on the two players were difficult to accept and that they are the only ones now dealing with the consequences.pic.twitter.com/3FfaW3FwZH
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) October 20, 2020
“Yes, it’s not perfect, for sure not. Joel Matip is not here as well, so that’s not perfect. But that’s our situation and we have to deal with it. We will see how we react on it.
“We are still a little bit sensitive in the situation, which you are obviously not. That’s exactly why we are in the moment in a completely different mood to you.
“The first question people ask, ‘What are you doing now in the transfer market?’ We know since yesterday that our vice-captain and the best centre-half in the world is not playing for us for a long time – we will see how long. And now we work on solutions for now and from a specific moment on, we will try to find solutions for the future but I have no idea how they will look in this moment.”
Ahead of tonight’s clash in Amsterdam, Klopp insisted he remains confident in his side’s ability to succeed despite the absence of Van Dijk and says he is hopeful results will silence those predicting defensive struggle.
“I said it already, we will try. Why should I think that the boys cannot deal with the situation? But the number of questions you ask around the game, it’s obvious you all think we will struggle with it.
“It means we now have to prove you wrong, even when I’m not even interested to prove you wrong. I’m only interested in the best for Liverpool and for my players. That’s what we try now and hopefully the results we have in the next few weeks will calm you all slightly down but I cannot promise it.”