Liverpool’s match against Brighton yesterday was less a game of football, and more a battle of attrition. Both teams ended up losing players to injuries, with Brighton losing two players — including former Liverpool player Adam Lallana, who came on as a sub himself — and Liverpool losing yet another midfielder.
The 34 year old James Milner, playing his third game in six days, went down grabbing his hamstring in the 74th minute, and had to be subbed off. Milner’s injury was yet another blow for a Liverpool squad with its depth pushed to the absolute brink.
“I have no idea how bad the Milner injury is, we’ll see with that,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after the game.
With Milner’s injury, Liverpool will be forced into more difficult decisions in the following games this coming week. Even if it is just a slight strain, Milner will likely be out of commission against Ajax and Wolves to rest and recover. That leaves Liverpool with three fit senior team midfielder — Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, and Curtis Jones.
Wijnaldum is coming off of three games in less than a week, and absolutely needs a rest himself. The Dutchman is second on the team in minutes played this season, having player just over 900 minutes. That is about 300 minutes higher than the next midfielder, Jordan Henderson. While Wijnaldum never stopped working against Brighton, he looked visibly tired at times.
Speaking of Henderson, Liverpool’s captain returned from his own muscle injury to come on after half time against Brighton. Ideally he’d be eased back into action, but outside of playing a U23 side against Ajax, that likely won’t be an action.
The other senior team midfielder is the 19 year old Curtis Jones. The young Scouser has been pressed into starting duty more than Klopp probably envisioned to start the season, but Jones has acquitted himself well. Jones was held out of a start against Brighton at the advice of the medical team, meaning he is also a player likely to be at risk of a muscle injury if pushed too far.
Unfortunately, it seems that Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Xherdan Shaqiri will all not be fit in time for either game this week. Fabinho could be pushed back up into midfield if Klopp decides to partner the fragile Joel Matip with Rhys Williams in the Champions League, or Nathanial Phillips in the Premier League. Klopp could also change the shape of his team, moving to a 4-2-3-1. Liverpool have a little more depth on the attacking end, and could afford to rotate in Takumi Minamino or Divock Origi against Ajax.