Goals from Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah sealed a 2-0 win for Liverpool over Midtjylland at Anfield in Group D of the Champions.
After making five changes from the victory over Sheffield United — with only the back five and Jota retained — a performance devoid of any fluency still yielded a win, which was sealed by substitute Salah’s penalty.
The slow start to proceedings from the hosts wasn’t surprising, given the rhythm sapping number of personnel changes from the Reds. It was the visitors — who were routed 4-0 in their opener at home to Atalanta that started brighter with Ander Dreyer shooting straight at Alisson after a long punt from the back sent him in behind the Liverpool rearguard.
In case Jurgen Klopp didn’t have enough of a headache at centre half, Fabinho — appearing to hold his hamstring — was withdrawn to be replaced by Rhys Williams as an all-round wretched half reach its end with little to speak of bar a few badly timed Midtjylland tackles.
Clearly, in a pre-planned move, Georginio Wijnaldum replaced Henderson at half time but there must have been the temptation to substitute several more, given the meek first-half display from the hosts.
The Dutchman brought a calm to proceedings and Liverpool — although it is hard to envision them being worse — improved thereafter.
After a lackluster first 55 minutes, which failed to lead to a shot on goal, the Reds scored with their first attack of any conviction.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s beautiful against the grain reverse ball set Alexander-Arnold free in the box and the full back’s inviting cross was tapped into the net by the well-positioned Jota.
The cavalry were called on the hour mark, as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané came on for Minamino and Origi, players whose performances would be charitably tagged as ineffective.
Roberto Firmino also joined the fray late — replacing goal scorer Jota — but missed a golden chance to kill the game when he skied Alexander Arnold’s pullback in the box.
The Brazilians profligacy was almost immediately punished when Dreyer — after skipping past Gomez — narrowly clipped the ball wide.
Alexander Arnold was proving the Reds only real source of creativity and it was his sumptuous through ball to Salah that sealed the win. Racing through on goal, the Egyptian was fouled by full-back Paulinho. And with composure, Salah sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot for 2-0.
Similar to last weeks win at the Amsterdam Arena, the victory was not a thing of beauty, but Liverpool — whose only real worry will be the extent of Fabinho’s injury — won’t care as Ajax’s 2-2 draw in Bergamo against Atalanta means the English Champions outright top the group.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Fabinho, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Milner; Shaqiri, Minamino, Jota; Origi.
Replacements: Salah for Origi, Mane for Minamino, Firmino for Jota, Williams for Fabinho, Wijnaldum for Henderson.
Jota scored his second consecutive goal for the Reds to kick off a 2-0 victory over Midtjylland on Tuesday night, following his winner against Sheffield United three days previous.
His tally is already at three goals in eight appearances, averaging one every 138 minutes so far, despite not yet commanding a first-choice role in Jurgen Klopp‘s side.
Lallana, meanwhile, arrived as a Liverpool player with the club undergoing something of a crisis, with Luis Suarez departing for Barcelona in the wake of the near-miss in the Premier League title race in 2013/14.
He scored his first goal for the club in his seventh outing, and his fifth start, but by his own admission, he was “trying too hard.”
Assessing Jota’s start as he sat in the BT Sport studio for the Reds’ latest Group D win, Lallana insisted that he has already “proven his worth.”
“I think he’s started absolutely fantastically. He played at the weekend as well, along with the front three,” he said.
“I was speaking to Crouchy earlier and we were saying how difficult it is to join Liverpool and settle and hit the ground running.
“So I think he’s started the season brilliantly and he’s obviously full of confidence.
“[He could] potentially [replace one of the front three if they leave], no one knows what’s going to happen in the future, but I think the recruitment over the last few years has been absolutely sensational.
“Jota’s proven his worth so far, and long may it continue.”
Comparing their starts at the club, Lallana explained how it took him up to a year-and-a-half to “really settle,” which would have come in the first months of Klopp’s time at the club.
Klopp was full of praise for his former midfielder during BT Sport’s coverage of the game, but Lallana argued that Jota was blazing a brighter trail than him already.
“Personally when I joined Liverpool, I probably tried a bit too hard,” he explained.
“I was so desperate to do well and came into an environment where it was just difficult, it was change, and something I wasn’t used to.
“It probably took me between a year and 18 months to really settle, so the likes of Jota coming in and performing at such a high level straight away is not to be sniffed at really, it’s brilliant.”
The Reds look set to head into the weekend without three senior centre-backs, including Fabinho who had been filling in admirably out of position following the long-term injury to Van Dijk.
Fabinho pulled up with a hamstring complaint in Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Midtjylland, and after the game, Klopp suggested the Brazilian would at least miss the visit of the Hammers.
Meanwhile, in his post-match press conference, the manager was asked about the availability of Matip, who has been sidelined since the Merseyside derby.
“I don’t know. We have to see,” he said, before explaining that the No. 32 could not be rushed back even when fit.
“How it is, if it would be only one game that we play – if it’s the last game of the season – then I think we could make maybe one or the other fit for one game.
“But then we play three days later again, and we need players again.
“The players who are now injured, we cannot use them on the first day of being fit again, or not injured anymore.
“They need a proper buildup for the rest of the season, that’s what we try. And it’s this juggle all the time between the fit players, how much can they play, and when can we use the others again.
“We are really interested in that fact, so you can imagine we try everything to make everybody fit as quick as possible.”
Williams is the most likely candidate to start against West Ham – though there is still the possibility Jordan Henderson fills in – with Klopp pleading for journalists to not build up pressure on the 19-year-old.
“He did really well. The only problem we, unfortunately, have now is we have four days until the West Ham game,” he explained.
“And you will make a story of him, then he has to prove that he can deal with that as well, because before everything was calm around him.
“He did well, everything looks promising.”
Assessing the rest of his options, Klopp accepted that “we have to choose one of them,” noting the “strange” circumstance that ensured Phillips is not in the Champions League squad.
“Apart from Rhys we have Nat Phillips who, for the reason that we thought he might make a transfer to another club, is not in the Champions League squad, which is strange. But he is a centre-half as well,” he said.
“Billy the kid, I’m not sure if he can train now tomorrow or not, but he will be back in training.
“So we have very young and inexperienced alternatives, in the moment it looks like we have to choose one of them.
“I don’t know yet, but to be really clear and positive, Rhys was not our problem in one situation tonight, he played a really good game.”
It is interesting that twice now Klopp has neglected to mention Sepp van den Berg, the Dutch defender signed from PEC Zwolle last summer, and it appears Williams’ centre-back partner at under-23 level is not under consideration.
Instead, the Reds will forge on with those working with the first team on a daily basis at Melwood, with Williams hoping to build on a promising display against Midtjylland.
Liverpool players celebrated a job done and after making it two from two in the Champions League but they were left to cross their fingers once more due to injury.
It wasn’t pretty and it was far from a classic, but Jurgen Klopp‘s men found a way once more to notch three points on the board to set promising early foundations in Group D.
It came at a cost, however, with another centre-back option in Fabinho stung by the hamstring sniper midway through the first-half as the defensive injury woes continued.
Despite the upheaval at the back once more, the Reds were able to bed in Rhys Williams and deny Midtjylland on the scoresheet as they carved two opportunities in attack to seal a 2-0 win.
The rotated side understandably lacked rhythm and cohesion against their well-drilled opposition, but a sharp one-two between Xherdan Shaqiri and Trent Alexander-Arnold would provide the opener for Diogo Jota.
And while it was one which edged the Reds ahead, the strike was also one which saw the club reach the 10,000 goal mark across all competitions.
A penalty conversion from Mohamed Salah in stoppage time would make sure of the result and for Jota, who has now scored in three of his four Anfield appearances, his effort was one to savour after he marked his name in the record books:
“We have many players with great qualities so everything can happen and it was a great move and I was there to finish.
“I think it’s an amazing stat [10,000 goals] but the most important was the team and the victory but, of course, being in the history books is always a mark and I’m very pleased with that as well.
“I always try to help the team, running, defending and obviously as a forward I want to score so when that happens I’m always happy and when we win everything is perfect.”
For the man who provided the assist, Trent Alexander-Arnold conceded it was “not our best game” but it was a case of ensuring the job was done to put Liverpool in the best possible position.
The right-back was also left to hope that Fabinho‘s injury is not a serious one but lauded the “world-class” job of Williams, when speaking to LFCTV, after entering the fray cold at such a young age and more than holding his own:
“It was always going to be tough, it’s Champions League so you never expect an easy game but we’ve kept a clean sheet which we’re happy with, we played well and we’ve done our job.
“It wasn’t our best game but we’ve got the job done, three points in a tough group and you never take that for granted and we’ve put ourselves in a decent position.
“Hopefully, we’ve set the foundation to work off now and hopefully keep going, working hard and advance.
“Fab’s been playing well, doing unbelievable the last few games and obviously that happens. It’s disappointing but hopefully, it’s not too long because we’ll miss him.
“That position’s probably a bit bare, to say the least. But we’ve got an amazing squad, you’ve seen Rhys Williams stepping in and doing a world-class job, at a young age with such little experience. He’s got a bright future ahead.”
The vice-captain was also quick to praise the performance of Williams when he took to Instagram after the game, with James Milner lamenting the absence of the fans as he celebrated the three points:
For the 19-year-old himself, he was “delighted” to get another outing in the Champions League, following on from his late cameo at Ajax, and to mark it with three points and an all-important clean sheet:
And for Gini Wijnaldum and Jota, it was time to commemorate two vital early wins in Group D and the “great moment” of being the one to notch Liverpool’s 10,000th goal:
While certainly not a European night to remember, with injuries mounting it did not need to be as keeping the wins ticking over, irrespective of performances, is key.
The victory places the Reds in the enviable top spot in Group D but the task now is to stay there ahead of a double-header with next best Atalanta.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was delighted to earn three points and witness the eye-catching displays of Diogo Jota and Rhys Williams in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over FC Midtjylland.
The Reds moved into first place of their Champions League group on Tuesday after Jota netted the club’s 10,000th goal in all competitions, with Mohamed Salah making sure of the Anfield win from the penalty spot late on.
Before those goals, though, Liverpool were forced into an early change when Fabinho hobbled off and was replaced by centre-half Williams, who was making his fourth first-team outing.
Read on for Liverpoolfc.com's post-match interview with Alexander-Arnold as he assessed the testing encounter with the Danish champions...
A win and a clean sheet but it was a tough night...
Yeah, it was always going to be tough. It's the Champions League, so you never expect an easy game. But we've kept a clean sheet, which we're happy with, and we played well. We did our job. It wasn't our best game but we've got the job done. Three points in a tough group, you never take that for granted and we've put ourselves in a decent position. Hopefully we've set the foundation to work off now and hopefully keep going, keep working hard and advance hopefully.
European win back at Anfield. https://t.co/mT9fthRLNp— TrentAA (Trent Alexander-Arnold) 27th Oct 22:55
You've been grinding out wins when it just doesn't seem like you're getting any luck at the moment. Seeing Fabinho get the injury after half an hour kind of sums things up a little bit...
Obviously he's covering in at centre-half and he's been playing unbelievable in the last few games. Obviously that happens and it's disappointing – hopefully it's not too long because we'll miss him. That position is probably a little bare at the minute to say the least but we've got an amazing squad, you've seen Rhys Williams stepping in and doing a world-class job. At such a young age with such little experience, unbelievable from him. He never really put a foot wrong. Well done to him and I think he's got a bright future ahead.
It was a big opportunity for Rhys tonight and it could be a big opportunity from here on now. You're probably going to be the person that he leans on for advice because you came through exactly the same route...
I think he's an amazing player, he's shown that over the last few weeks. He wasn't with us much last season but he came in this season and showed how good a player he is. The manager obviously trusts him a lot and he's been playing a few minutes. To be thrown in at the deep end on the biggest of stages is tough to do, tough to perform, but he never really put a foot wrong. So I think he'll definitely be in the manager's thoughts hopefully come the weekend and further on.
You were involved in the goal for Diogo, it was a great team goal. He's just hit the ground running, hasn't he?
That's exactly what you want from a new signing. He's slotted right in on the pitch and off the pitch. He works well with us, works well for us – I think we all noticed that when we played against him in the last few seasons at Wolves and how good a player he is. So to have him on our team now is something we're happy with. Like you said, he's hit the ground running and hopefully there'll be many more goals and a lot more success with him in the team.
The result has gone to plan but it was our first experience of a European night here without the crowd. It doesn't get any more normal being without the crowd, does it?
No, obviously we miss the fans a lot. It's something that we've had to try and adapt to but it'll never feel normal – especially on a Champions League night, there's always something special in the air. So we miss the fans a lot. Hopefully they were pleased watching from home and wherever they were watching from. We're happy with the result and hopefully we'll be able to progress and hopefully see them soon.
The media praised Liverpool for getting the job done in the 2-0 win over Midtjylland, but expressed regret that victory again came at a heavy price.
It was not a European night to remember at Anfield but it was very much job done as the Reds made it two wins from two in the Champions League.
Liverpool sit top of Group D with maximum points, ensuring the Reds are in the driver’s seat ahead of the upcoming double-header with second-placed Atalanta.
This was an important victory for the Reds, but one that came at a cost, as the media explained…Reporters praised Liverpool for continuing to find a way to get results in a tough period on and off the pitch…
The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe noted how the Reds’ character “shone through” to get over the line, but also pointed out how Klopp’s team miss the buzz of the Anfield support:
“Liverpool did what they have done for the last three games – getting the job done while looking a shadow of the side we usually see in front of a vibrant audience.
“Every win feels like a toil at the moment. Each one seems to come at a cost. But Liverpool are still winning.”
“Victory, though, may well have come at a cost. Liverpool’s problems at centre-back are well known, and the sight of Fabinho limping off here does little to soothe their concerns.
“A hamstring, perhaps? That’s the last thing Jurgen Klopp needs right now.
“Injuries hurt, whether you’re a great side or an indifferent one. Victories, though, are the best painkiller there is.”
Meanwhile, the Independent’s Melissa Reddy was among several journalists to point out how hollow a European night at Anfield felt without fans:
“These European nights under the lights have a way of highlighting just how empty, sterile and stale football is in its Covid-affected state, without fans or magic or the feeling that something special is taking place.”
And Bascombe quipped how it feels like the eventual winner of the Champions League will literally be the last team that can field enough of their strongest players:
“It already feels like the season of the last man standing, the biggest prizes earned not just by those with the greatest talent, but the fewest wounds.”Members of the media offered assessments on the performances of those given a chance to shine…
BBC Sport’s Neil Johnston was unimpressed with all the attacking players given an opportunity to impress:
“This was Liverpool’s first game since August 2015 that none of their famed front three started yet the Reds failed to manage a single first-half shot on target for the first time in 51 home games.
“Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri all struggled to make an impact during a flat home performance as Jurgen Klopp looked to rest Mane, Salah and Firmino during a hectic run of fixtures.”
“Minamino and Origi flattered to deceive, meaning that Klopp was forced into bring on his first-choice front three in the second half.”
“Shaqiri has worked his way back into Klopp’s plans, and followed up his cameo against Ajax with another lively showing.
“His reverse pass to Alexander-Arnold to help set up the goal was superb, and in general he was a bundle of energy looking to make things happen. Perhaps there’s hope for him at Anfield yet.”
“His Champions League debut came as a late substitute at Ajax on Matchday One, but this was a more substantial taste for the teenager.
“He handled it well enough. There are shades of Van Dijk about his game: he is relaxed on the ball, competes well in the air and passes with confidence. He is also, as academy staff and team-mates will testify, an excellent talker on the field. Liverpool look like they will need him now.”
Elsewhere, Fenton labelled Trent Alexander-Arnold’s performance “excellent,” as Liverpool’s standout performer:
“Assisted Jota’s opener, from a move that the England international also initiated. Excellent in both directions, but tonight, his creativity in particular made all the difference.”
And Wells later praised Alisson for delivering at the big moments, and rightly assessed how much better the Reds look defensively with the Brazilian in goal:
“A good goalkeeper is worth his weight in gold. Alisson is probably worth double. At least to Liverpool that is. The Brazilian just oozes calm, and his presence behind Liverpool’s defence puts the rest of his colleagues at ease.
“Liverpool look a lot stronger with him back.”Journalists discussed Liverpool’s deepening defensive injury crisis and how Klopp can reorganise the back line…
First of all, Bascombe discussed the wider origins of the injury emergency and bemoaned how the forced, shortened schedule is taking its toll and ultimately distorting the competition:
“More likely it was the sight of yet another muscle injury to one of the many hundreds of top-class players expected to overexert in trench warfare to keep the sponsors and broadcasters happy.
“Everyone agrees we need the release of football, but the foolishness of so much, so often, is starting to take its toll.”
“His team have responded faultlessly to Van Dijk’s injury in terms of results but resources are being stretched painfully thin at the back.”
On Klopp’s options, there were many advocates for Williams to be handed the chance, including from Fenton, who thought the youngster showed “he belongs at this level”:
“The biggest compliment you can give the young defender is that he looked like he belongs at this level. Given that he replaced a world-class talent in Fabinho, that’s a very good sign indeed.
The Mail’s Dominic King was on the same page and explained how Williams’ mature style of play should provide Klopp with confidence that the teenager is indeed ready:
“He reads the game well – one interception in the 57th minute caught the eye – and makes sensible passes and he will also benefit from having the imperious goalkeeper Alisson Becker behind him.
“Fate has put Williams in this position but his talent for this unexpected opportunity should not be doubted.”
“Gomez, you suspect, will be busy in Italy. Whoever lines up alongside him – and Henderson could well be an option – remains to be seen.”
And the same reporter led the calls for Liverpool to sign another centre-back in January, assessing that failure from the club to do so would be “a dereliction of duty”:
“He may have to reassess that approach in January. Liverpool will hope Fabinho isn’t sidelined for too long but with the Reds rarely being able to rely on the fitness of Matip with any great regularity, reinforcement could become a necessity by the time the busy schedule for the remainder of the calendar year has been navigated.
“To not do so could be deemed a dereliction of duty.”
[unable to retrieve full-text content]Watch highlights and post-match reaction from Liverpool's 2-0 victory over FC Midtjylland in the Champions League on LFCTV GO now.
Virgil van Dijk's long-term injury has given Jurgen Klopp plenty to ponder in terms of his selections at centre-back over the coming weeks, and with Fabinho also going off on Tuesday night against Midtjylland, he may have to turn to youth.
Fabinho had started the three games following Van Dijk's injury, but the Brazilian went off in the 2-0 win over Midtjylland with what looked like a hamstring injury.
It is unclear whether Joel Matip will have recovered from a muscle injury to play against West Ham at Anfield on Saturday, but when he returns, Matip and Joe Gomez are set to be Liverpool's first-choice pairing. Nevertheless, Dejan Lovren's departure in the summer leaves the club short on experienced alternatives.Image: Fabinho was forced off in the first half on Tuesday night
With Premier League and Champions League games coming thick and fast over the next month or so in this condensed season, Klopp admitted on Tuesday he would need to dip into Liverpool's academy to bolster his backline.
"We have very young and inexperienced alternatives and at the moment it looks like we have to choose one of them."
Here, we look at some of the standout young defenders in Liverpool's ranks...Liverpool's upcoming games
If Liverpool are to look to their youth ranks for cover at centre-back, it seems Rhys Williams is likely to be the first player Klopp would turn to. The 19-year-old, who replaced Fabinho on Tuesday night against Midtjylland, made his Liverpool debut in September, starting alongside Van Dijk and then being partnered with Fabinho in the second half, as the Reds beat Lincoln 7-2 in the Carabao Cup, and played again in the defeat to Arsenal in the next round.
Part of Liverpool's 2019 FA Youth Cup-winning side, Williams signed a five-year contract earlier in 2020, underlining the club's belief in his potential.1:00 Former Wigan manager Paul Cook analysed Liverpool teenage defender Rhys Williams during a guest slot on Sky Sports News' The Football Show
Williams - who has confessed to studying Van Dijk's performances and post-match analysis of the Dutchman's displays - had a loan spell in non-League last season with Kidderminster Harriers and made his England U21 debut this month.
Against a Midtjylland side who rarely threatened, Williams eased his way into action with a solid display on Tuesday at Anfield. Tougher tests are to come.
"He did really well," said Klopp after Tuesday's game. "The only problem now is we have four days until the West Ham game, you will make a story of him every day and then he has to prove he can deal with that again. Everything was calm around him. We will try to do that as well.
"To be really clear and positive, Rhys was not in one situation tonight a problem for us, he played a really good game."Sepp van den Berg Image: Van den Berg also attracted interest from Bayern Munich
Netherlands youth international Sepp van den Berg could also be in contention. He made four first-team appearances for Liverpool last season in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup and travelled with the team to the Club World Cup.
However, the 18-year-old - who had also attracted interest from Bayern Munich when he signed for Liverpool in June 2019 - may now be behind Rhys Williams in the pecking order after missing out on a Carabao Cup runout this season.
Van den Berg already has some top-flight experience under his belt, having made 22 Eredivisie appearances with former side PEC Zwolle. "I am calm with the ball, I am quite quick and can run," he said on his arrival at Liverpool, who insisted at the time he was not an 'academy' signing but a player they were looking to develop for the first team.Nathaniel Phillips Image: Phillips played 90 minutes in Liverpool's FA Cup win over Everton
Nat Phillips looked like he could be on his way to the Championship last week - and now he is among the players trying to put themselves in position for a first-team role at Liverpool.
Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest and Swansea were among the second-tier sides weighing up a move for the 23-year-old but ultimately he remained at Anfield to provide extra cover at centre-back.
Phillips had two loan spells at Stuttgart last season, where he made 19 starts in Bundesliga II, and in between he was recalled by Klopp in December when Matip, Lovren and Fabinho were all out injured at the same time.
Klopp said he had been impressed by Phillips' performances in Germany and he went on to start the FA Cup win over Everton in January before returning to Stuttgart for the remainder of the season.
He is not currently in Liverpool's Champions League squad, however.Billy Koumetio 0:25 Jurgen Klopp says his Liverpool team must stick together for good and for bad after losing Fabinho to injury in their Champions League win over FC Midtjylland.
At just 17 years old, Billy Koumetio is the youngest player listed here - but the Frenchman is highly rated at Liverpool.
He signed his first professional contract in August and went on to impress Klopp and his team-mates during pre-season. However, a tough afternoon in a friendly at Blackpool may suggest it is too soon for him to step into the fold.
Koumetio was dispossessed for Blackpool's first goal and played an attacker onside in the build-up to them winning a penalty for their second before he was replaced at half-time. Liverpool bounced back to win 7-2 and afterwards Klopp conceded the defender still had things to learn - but backed him to improve.
"I'm pretty sure he will make big steps," said Klopp this summer. "We just have to make sure that we really deal with his age group and physical demands well." But for an ill-timed injury he may well have figured in the Carabao Cup this season. For now though, he is still to make his competitive first-team debut.
Koumetio, out for a part of last season with injury, will soon be back in Liverpool training after also suffering a recent knock.An experienced alternative? Image: Jordan Henderson could step in at centre-back
Alternatively, Klopp might be tempted to repurpose another of his midfielders as a centre-back - as he did with Fabinho - thereby ensuring Liverpool maintain plenty of experience in their backline.
If he decides to go down this route, the most obvious candidate to drop back would be Jordan Henderson. The club captain plays an important role in Liverpool's midfield, but Klopp has more bodies in that area following the signing of Thiago Alcantara in the summer.
Plus, Henderson has some experience of playing at centre-back having stepped into the role in the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final against Monterrey last year. Liverpool team-mate Adam Lallana described his performance as "magnificent" that day as he helped the Reds secure a 2-1 win and Klopp was similarly impressed.
"If the manager needed me to go there again," added Henderson, "I would do it."'A situation that is far from ideal' 0:31 Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says his injured players will need time to recover as the club's injury crisis worsens.
Analysis from Sky Sports News reporter Vinny O'Connor:
"Clearly losing Fabinho after half an hour was a nightmare scenario for Jurgen Klopp. It was quite obvious at the time that he's injured a hamstring.
"We're not sure yet as we await a scan how long Fabinho will be out for, but at this stage you can't see him being fit to face West Ham at the weekend and then there's Atalanta to come in the Champions League before Manchester City.
"Liverpool have three senior centre-halves injured at the moment, with Virgil van Dijk due to have surgery on his damaged ACL. Last night, Klopp said he didn't know if he would have Joel Matip available for the weekend. Jordan Henderson could fill in at centre-half - we saw that last season in the Club World Cup.
"Fabinho's injury also robs Liverpool of an option in the centre of midfield as well, albeit they have Thiago and Naby Keita coming back from injury. All in all, the situation is far from ideal.
"Unfortunately, injuries have hit and it's left them having to look at younger options to bring in to cover those gaps. There's a number of youngsters who could well get that opportunity to push their case for more senior involvement over the coming weeks."
Liverpool are waiting to discover the extent of the injury Fabinho sustained during Tuesday's 2-0 win over FC Midtjylland.
The 27-year-old pulled up during the first half of the Champions League Group D tie and needed to be replaced by Rhys Williams after 29 minutes due to a muscle issue.
Jürgen Klopp explained in his post-match press conference: “Fab, I don’t know. Muscle injuries are like this, you get the result tomorrow morning probably, we have to wait for that.”
Meanwhile, Klopp explained the thinking behind the decision to replace Jordan Henderson with Georginio Wijnaldum at half-time, confirming the captain had not suffered an injury.
The boss said: “First, Hendo said at half-time he wants to play on. Before the game I’d decided already we have to share it – 45 and 45 – and all the rest would have been ridiculous.
“Hendo said at half-time, ‘No, boss, I can go on’ and then in these moments you have to be strong to yourself because I didn’t want to lose him, actually.
“We made the change, Gini did really well and for both I think it helped that they played only 45.”
On whether Joel Matip could return to the squad for Saturday’s Premier League fixture with West Ham United at Anfield, Klopp added: “I don’t know, we have to see.
“Look, if it would be only one game we play, if it was the last game of the season, I think we could make probably one or the other fit for one game – but we play three days later again and we need players again.
“The players who are now injured, we cannot use them on the first day of being fit again – or not injured anymore. They need a proper build-up for the rest of the season and that’s what we try.
“It is this juggle all the time between the fit players – how much can they play still? – and when we can use the others again?
“We are really interested in that fact so you can imagine we try everything to make everybody fit as quickly as possible.”
Liverpool’s second Champions League group game ended in a narrow win and another clean sheet with a 2-0 win over Midtjylland.Liverpool 2-0 Midtjylland
Champions League Group Stage (2), Anfield
October 27, 2020
Goals: Jota 55′, Salah pen 90′Problem position
Half an hour in, the Reds had to make a change.
Short of Alisson having a recurrence of his shoulder issue, the one position Liverpool didn’t want any further problems was at centre-back – but Fabinho walked off, leaving us with one senior option standing.
Rhys Williams came on and did reasonably well, cutting out a couple of balls and keeping his passing simple.
But with Van Dijk now an irrelevance all season, the onus is really on Joel Matip to step up and do everything possible to get, and keep, himself fit.
Nat Phillips is likely to see game time now too, though he’s only part of the league squad, not the European one.
As for Joe Gomez – it’s cotton wool time in between matches.Missed chances
It’s not really right to say that Liverpool’s second-string forwards missed chances in the first half, since we didn’t create any.
But they might have been feeling they had missed their chance, as in their opportunity, to shine.
Divock Origi looked like what he was: a forward who has no rhythm, no form, no game time of late.
Taki Minamino worked hard and won the ball back plenty, but didn’t have much to work with, no movement around him to link up in.
Xherdan Shaqiri wasn’t even in the attack, playing as an out-of-sorts third midfielder again and looking largely lost.
And then there was Diogo Jota, largely seen as the fourth forward right now.
He was poor, or at least anonymous, out on the right wing in the first half – then after the break swapped to the left and was immediately better.
One dribble caused danger, then his next run resulted in a tap-in for the Reds’ 10,000th goal of the club’s history.
He and Minamino were the better performers, and Jota hitting the goal trail early is very useful indeed.Sticky patch
Liverpool aren’t in the best run of form right now; that’s inarguable. However, like the great teams do, like the great cliches say, they are finding a way to win.
Ajax and Midtjylland have been two performances which will not live long in the memory.
Put it down to the lack of atmosphere, the rotation, the injuries or the fact opponents want to hack down those wearing a red shirt and just stop us playing by whatever cost.
But they have also resulted in six Champions League points, which put us at least halfway to the knockout stages, while also going mightily close to winning the derby away from home and taking all three points in our last league game.
The magic, the speed, the razzmatazz and the unstoppable brilliance of the Reds at their best will return.
But in the meantime, don’t forget that winning games in this way too is no bad thing.Two or three?
Central midfield is a bit of a conundrum right now, by way of a knock-on effect from other areas of the pitch.
Defence has nobody, attack has lots of bodies. As a result, a switch to play 4-2-3-1 (or to incorporate four forwards, one in an unusual role in a different system) is an obvious option.
In theory, too, a double-pivot midfield might better protect the defence, with inexperience and new partnerships trying to focus on their own game in that line.
But the Reds are so used to playing in a three, with a deepest single option and the two eights having their own specific job off the ball, that it will be very difficult to get the balance spot on given the lack of training time right now.
This time, it was notable that we neither had the ball-playing ability in the middle of the park, nor the movement ahead of them to make good passes worthwhile.
But then there was also a lack of pressing, a lack of intensity, in-your-face approach from those in the middle – Milner fouls aside – to really dominate and exert our own authority on the flow of the game.Domestic matters
Front players rested; minutes in the legs for a few squad players; another win in the bank.
All in all, it’s a night of positives – assuming the Fabinho injury isn’t too costly.
But yet again there’s no time for lingering and wondering; yet again we’re straight back into the action and West Ham lie in wait at the weekend.
Jurgen Klopp will have decisions to ponder: Phillips or Williams? Thiago or Naby to return? Henderson for 90? What shape, which forwards did enough to stay in tonight? Is David Moyes really in charge of a team which tries to attack?
Let’s hope the answer to the last question is yes – and whatever else happens, that the Reds can find their cutting edge on the counter to rack up another three points in the league.
Liverpool made it two wins from two in Champions League games this season, but it wasn’t all plain sailing against Midtjylland.Liverpool 2-0 Midtjylland
Champions League (2), Anfield
October 27, 2020
Goals: Jota 55′, Salah 90+3′
Alisson (out of 10) – 7
Had to be well-positioned and alert to make a save from Anders Dreyer in the opening minutes.
Having him between the posts means Liverpool can get away with one or two of these occasions where the opposition are able to time their run and pass to beat the offside trap.
He’s a big, reassuring presence who gives confidence to the rest of the team and helps organise the defence. Also showed glimpses of his excellent passing ability.
Sat towards the Annie Road end tonight and can hear Alisson shouting to his defenders constantly. “Hold the line, hold the line. Come on Rhys. Push out, push out. Joe, Joe! KEEPER!” Absolutely vital he’s back with a young central defence playing #LFC #UCL #LIVFCM pic.twitter.com/eFmdr9J5st
— Chris Mac (@chrismackop) October 27, 2020
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8 (Man of the Match)
Was among the brightest of Liverpool’s players in a poor first half, even if not everything he did came off.
He spotted Henderson’s run at a free-kick but overhit his pass, then later in the half made a nice run into the area couldn’t find the final ball.
He had no such trouble at the start of the second half, linking up with Shaqiri to create the opener.
Set up Firmino for a chance later on, from which the Brazilian should have scored but didn’t.
Fabinho – N/A
Didn’t have much to do before leaving the field with a hamstring injury on the half-hour mark.
Joe Gomez – 7
A couple of early Van Dijk-esque diagonals went straight out of play on the opposite side. Part of the plan, but not one he executed well.
Settled into a more simple passing game after that and did well.
Made a good strong challenge on Sory Kaba early in the second half to assert his authority, and won seven aerial duels.
Bypassed easily by the tricky Anders Dreyer late in the game, but was let off the hook when the Dane’s subsequent shot hit the side-netting.
Andy Robertson – 6
Found himself in a battle with Dreyer, who was Midtjylland’s best player on the night. The winger ran off his shoulder in behind giving Liverpool a scare in the opening stages.
Not as involved as Alexander-Arnold on the other side, but still set up a few shooting opportunities for his team-mates.
Jordan Henderson – 6
Steady, neat and tidy, finishing the first-half with a pass success of 95 percent. Not sure this role in the 4-2-3-1 is the one that suits him best, though.
He did reasonably well despite constant pressure from Midtjylland’s midfield, and played å nice pass for Minamino, sending Alexander-Arnold’s pass on to the next stop for one of the clearer chances of the first half.
Was taken off at half time with the weekend in mind. Klopp confirmed after the game the idea was for him to play 45 minutes.
James Milner – 6
Unsteady, not that tidy, finishing the game with a pass success of 79 percent. Not sure this role in the 4-2-3-1 is the one that suits him best, though.
The Englishman was sometimes a step behind his midfield opponents despite his usual high work rate and a couple of timely, if scrappy defensive interventions.
Looked much better when Klopp switched to a three-man midfield in the second half, and was asked to play the full 90 minutes. A valuable shift.
Xherdan Shaqiri – 7
Lively on the occasions he could get involved in the first half, but they were too few and far between.
Played a key part in the goal, putting Alexander-Arnold in the position to set up Jota for the tap-in. Should get an assist himself, such was the importance of his pass.
An encouraging display, and looks like he could be a useful option from the right or as an advanced midfielder as the season goes on.
Takumi Minamino – 6
Not what you would have hoped for from the obviously talented and hard-working forward in his chance to deputise for Firmino.
Might have worked better in the No.10 position, and didn’t seem to work well with the other players who had come into the side, which wasn’t always his fault.
Showed the occasional good touch before being subbed on the hour mark.
Diogo Jota – 7
Tapped in a goal showing some good anticipation and movement in the box to be in exactly the right place to turn home Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
Of the players who started, he looked the most suited to Liverpool’s current attack when the team is at full strength — a claim he has backed up with important goals in his last two games.
Divock Origi – 5
Wasn’t able to hold up the play as Liverpool cleared from the back, failing to provide an out-ball. Couldn’t seem to find his place in this much-changed Liverpool attack.
Played mostly from the left but looked sloppy and was ineffective.Subsitutes
Nice and composed in his second Champions League appearance and his first at Anfield, not that stadiums have much of an identity at the moment.
Comfortable enough on the ball, and a sizable presence in defence, but it remains to be seen whether he will be ready to step in full-time in the absence of Van Dijk, and now Fabinho.
Georginio Wijnaldum (on for Henderson, 46′) – 6
Replaced Henderson as the steady, reliable midfield presence, playing as the deepest midfielder in a 4-3-3 as Liverpool changed their shape.
It was his pass that released Alexander-Arnold for the goal.
Mohamed Salah (on for Origi, 60′) – 7
Looks a level above everyone else, especially when he enters the fray following uninspiring earlier performances from some of Liverpool’s attackers.
Despite this obvious quality, he also struggled to get into the game. But that all changed when he broke through lat on to win a penalty, which he took and scored himself.
Sadio Mane (on for Minamino, 60′) – 6
Underrated as a target man, the Senegalese entered the fray to help Liverpool make more things stick in attack, but he couldn’t influence the game as much as he and his manager might have hoped.
Roberto Firmino (on for Jota, 81′) – N/A
Skied a shot into the stands after having a chance put on a plate for him by Alexander-Arnold. Might have been needed a bit earlier for his hold-up play.
Subs not used: Adrian, Kelleher, N. Williams, Jones, Cain.Manager
Jurgen Klopp – 6
The Liverpool boss looked for familiarity at the back, but freshness at the front, looking to build consistency in his strongest available back four, while resting Salah, Mane, and Firmino.
This was soon disrupted when Fabinho was injured, and Rhys Willians had to replace him.
The 4-2-3-1 remained but Milner and Henderson seem to struggle as a double-pivot.
Looks like he desperately wants the crowd back so they can hold the players to account as much as he does, and so the Anfield atmosphere can drive on the intense counter-pressing style.
Despite the stodgy nature of these early games, Liverpool have won both. They are finding a way to win despite the unusual circumstances and the need for rotation, a change of shape, and personnel changes.
Liverpool have been dealt another injury blow, with Fabinho now set to be sidelined after suffering a hamstring injury against Midtjylland .
Speaking after the match, Jurgen Klopp confirmed it was hamstring injury for the Brazilian but didn’t know the severity of the issue yet.
“It’s exactly the last thing we needed,” admitted the boss.
“I know he felt a hamstring and that’s not good. He said he could have played on but no sprints, which doesn’t help. We will see, we will know more after a scan.”
Klopp explained: “We have to wait for the scan obviously, but you know in these times, when somebody goes off with a muscle problem it’s pretty rare that doc calls me the next morning and says ‘false alarm, all fine, he can go again’.
“It’s now only about how long, that’s all. Nowadays a week means three games, 10 days means four games, 14 days means seven games and all these kinds of things. That’s how it is. Absolutely not cool, but that’s the situation.”
Matip has missed the last two games after one game back following a month layoff, which followed two months out with another injury.
Matip played one minute in the opening game of the season against Leeds, then started in the Merseyside derby a fortnight ago. His last start before that was also the Merseyside derby, after the lockdown in June.
Jordan Henderson would be next in line to play at centre-back, having done so in the Club World Cup semi-final last December.
Beyond that, the options are Billy Koumetio and Nat Phillips – neither of which can be registered for the Reds’ European squad until the knockout stages.