When Nathaniel Clyne was left out of Liverpool’s Champions League squad, the assumption was that it could mean only one thing—that the player’s back injury was serious and that the club felt it was highly unlikely he would be available to play before the new year.
Today, manager Jürgen Klopp updated the player’s situation, and while he didn’t provide much insight into the specifics of Clyne’s injury or any kind of a timeline for his potential return, it does indeed appear that the club do not expect him to play again in the autumn.
"Nathaniel is working hard on his rehab and we have kept a close eye on his progress,” noted the Liverpool manager. “But the reality is we are looking at some time still before he is back and available for selection. I am told it will be longer than just a couple of weeks.
"It is pretty certain he'll not be available for the majority of the Champions League group matches. If we are fortunate enough to still be in UEFA competition in the New Year he could be added to the squad then.What is positive for us is how Joe and Trent have stepped up."
In Clyne’s absence, 18-year-old fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold and 20-year-old multi-position defender Joe Gomez have indeed stepped up and impressed. Still, to have to count on the two of them to carry the team at right back for the next few months is risky.
Liverpool will be playing two games a week almost every week and both players are young and not used to the physical and mental strain of that kind of schedule and that level of pressure—and in Gomez’ case the player is returning from nearly two years on the sidelines with injuries.
There are also knock-on issues for depth at centre half, where following the sale of Lucas Leiva and failure to sign Virgil van Dijk he club intended to use Gomez as fourth choice. And meanwhile, Clyne’s prognoses remains vague—beyond at least that he’ll be gone for some time.
"The medical guys are pleased with how he is responding,” Klopp added. “Nathaniel has shown a really strong attitude, given he is not someone who is used to being out injured.”