Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is not planning to buy a centre-back to cover Joel Matip’s expected absence for the rest of the season but admits the nature of the Premier League means all clubs are “only two injuries away from a real problem”.
Matip’s anterior cruciate ligament injury means Klopp now has five senior players unavailable – Diogo Jota, Andy Robertson, Thiago Alcantara and Stefan Bajcetic – with midfielder Alexis Mac Allister doubtful for the weekend trip to Crystal Palace after sustaining a problem in the midweek win over Sheffield United.
In central defence he has Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate – who has had two spells on the sidelines already this season – Joe Gomez and 20-year-old Jarell Quansah and he believes that will be enough to sustain them providing there are no further setbacks.
Klopp said rival clubs would not be leaving a top-class centre-back “under the Christmas tree for us” so he would likely manage with what he has.
“Everyone talks about us needing another player but they all cost money and they must be the right player,” said Klopp.
“You tell me a club who wants to sell a top centre-half. Not a centre-half but a top centre-half.
“For four or five days we’ve known Joel will be out for a long time and that’s really bad for us but we still have four centre-halves and that’s absolutely alright.
“If we had a fifth centre-half in beforehand it is a completely different team dynamic: when one is not involved, we don’t see steps with him, so it was like it was and it was perfect.
“Is it now perfect? I would say it is as long as we can go with those four, yes. If not then it would be a bit more tricky with the amount of games coming up.
“But it was never wonderland where you bring in a world-class centre-half until the other one is fit again.
“As long as other clubs don’t put them under the Christmas tree for us and say ‘Take it as long as you need it’ I don’t think so (it is likely to buy a player) to be honest.”
No timescale has been put on Matip’s return but with his contract due to expire in the summer, Klopp expects the club to look after the 32-year-old and offer a new deal.
“I would say so but it’s not my decision in the end,” he added.
“I am pretty sure the club will show their class and am pretty sure the club told Joel already that whatever happens as long as he is injured everything is fine.”
Goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s return to training ahead of schedule after a hamstring injury – he was not expected back until the visit of Manchester United next weekend – gives him a chance of playing at Selhurst Park and would be timely for a defence now missing 50 percent of its first-choice players with Robertson’s dislocated shoulder sidelining him since October.
With the changes which have taken place in the backline, the return to form of captain Van Dijk is even more important.
“It always was and always will be. Virg is the best defender in the world. Did he have lesser good spells? Yes. If you showed me one who never had I’d be really happy to meet him,” said Klopp.
“When we look in the back in the past (we think) Rio Ferdinand, Jaap Stam, Sami Hyypia were good all the time and always perfect. No-one was and no-one will be. Virg in this shape is super-important.”