The dearth of available centre-backs at Liverpool is putting Jürgen Klopp in a tricky situation heading into the Champions League Round of 16 tie with Bayern Munich. Injuries and the tragically suspended Virgil Van Dijk are forcing the manager into alternate-solutions training in Marbella.
Joël Matip has returned in recent weeks from his injury. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, Joe Gomez still has an unknown return date for rejoining the squad after his surgery and the other senior central defender Dejan Lovren is still recovering from a hamstring injury he picked up over a month ago, in early January.
Lovren did not travel with the team to Marbella since he could not participate in any of the training sessions. Instead the Croatian returned to his home country, reportedly calling on the services of a particular strength and conditioning coach while he was there.
Klopp has spent the time at Liverpool’s warm weather camp rehearsing the team in the alternate plan where Matip reigns supreme in the central combo. He knows Lovren is desperate to be fit for selection against Bayern on Tuesday but Klopp can’t expect any miracles.
“I don’t want to rule it out but I cannot really plan with it,” Klopp said of Lovren’s efforts.
“He is not here for good reasons, because he cannot be part of training. We are back on Friday. Then from Saturday on, Dejan is back at Melwood and we will see.
“But, of course, we have to prepare it differently. If Dejan gives a sign on Monday – ‘I feel brilliant’ – then we’d have to think anew.
“But in the moment we prepare the game and in this preparation Dejan is not involved. We have to find other solutions.”
One of Fabinho or Jordan Henderson is expected to join Matip. It won’t be the most rock solid defense Liverpool will have ever played but Klopp has had many training sessions with his fresh, alternate plan by now and there are still several more days until the first leg at Anfield. The team should walk out, confident in the manager’s plan and their ability to get the job done even in unfavorable shape.
And without Dejan Lovren, who’s been soaking in the Melwood hot tub for five weeks, making Pinterest boards of dazzling hotel wallpapers. Get your legs back, Degsy.