Loris Karius in goal. Joël Matip with whichever one of Dejan Lovren or Mamadou Sakho won the competition to partner with him. Emre Can screening the back line. Liverpool were supposed to go into the 2016-17 season with an entirely new look spine.
Only things didn’t quite work out that way. Karius broke his hand in pre-season. Can returned late from Euro 2016 duty and has struggled for fitness in the early going. Sakho suffered a shin injury and, worse, a falling out with manager Jürgen Klop.
Matip, too, has struggled with his fitness, which meant missing the end of pre-season and the club’s first two league games. He was back in the lineup for Burton Albion in the EFL Cup, though, making his delayed full Liverpool debut last night.
“I feel good after the time with my injury,” Matip told LFCTV following the 5-0 victory over Burton Albion. “It’s getting better and better. It was not the best time. For a player, it’s always hard when you’re injured and cannot go at 100 percent.”
It’s certainly hard for the player, but with the way some have struggled to imagine what Liverpool might look like when their injured spine returns to action—or even to imagine that they will return—you could almost believe it’s worse for the fans.
Despite that it’s been made clear Klopp sees Matip and Can and Karius as key starters and the core of this Liverpool team, with the three out or on the fringes as they recover from injury, there have been non-stop calls for reinforcements.
Of course, where those reinforcements would fit in the squad once Klopp’s injured spine returns over the next few weeks is another matter entirely. And with Karius ahead of schedule, it’s possible all will be available following the international break.
“It’s good to be back,” Matip added of his own return to action. “I’ll need some time, but I will get better. We have some things to improve. We know this. But it’s the beginning of the season but we have enough quality to improve and get better.”