Injuries to Jürgen Klopp’s midfield opened the door for Fabinho to step into Liverpool’s starting line-up against Red Star Belgrade. It’s been a slow start in red for the Brazilian midfielder. Klopp has all along spoken highly of Fabinho since his arrival in the summer, but the player’s involvement in the first team has been limited.
Jordan Henderson is sidelined with a hamstring problem that will also keep him out of the Cardiff City match at the weekend. Naby Keita is expected to return to training but his reintegration could be managed. And James Milner needs time off sometimes because he’s an older guy now and older guys can start to break down on you if you’re not careful with them. Enter Fabinho.
Fabinho got the start and played the full match. He was aware. He looked comfortable. He and Gini Wijnaldum were an effective midfield partnership along with the charging Xherdan Shaqiri in front of them.
When Klopp reacted to Fabinho’s performance, his words reflected those of a manager who knows that the hard work with the player has paid off and the long wait for Fabinho to announce himself on the pitch is over.
“Very good,” said Klopp. “Very, very good. The present for his birthday was not that he was in the line-up, it was that we played his favourite system with a double-six!
“He played really well and it was good to see. He was very aggressive and everything was there. For his first game for a while, his second [start] from the beginning, it was good, really good.
“It is quite impressive what people saw tonight. It always helps a player if you play a good game. It helped us tonight and helped him. That was the start, so let’s carry on.”