LONDON (REUTERS) – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has heaped praise on Joe Gomez after the England centre-back helped the club navigate a defensive injury crisis in recent weeks.
Liverpool have been shorn of defensive cover with Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and stand-in centre back Fabinho all suffering injuries.
In their absence, Gomez has been a steadying influence and has helped steer Liverpool to five straight wins in all competitions.
Klopp said the 23-year-old has responded to the increased responsibility on his shoulders and shown maturity to guide youngsters Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams at the back.
“He’s still young. Impressive boy,” Klopp told a news conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League trip to Manchester City on Sunday (Nov 8).
“He’s had so many different (centre-back) partners but he was always the kid in the line pretty much and that changed now completely.
“Everybody in life, we have to grow in situations like this and he did that. He used the last few weeks. He was pretty much thrown in cold water. He used it really well. I’m really happy with his performances he put in.”
Matip returned to the squad for Liverpool’s midweek Champions League thrashing of Atalanta and is in contention to start Sunday’s clash with City.
Liverpool, however, will be without injured midfielder Thiago Alcantara as they look to go eight points clear of Pep Guardiola’s City in the title race.
Thiago has not played since the Merseyside derby on Oct 17, when he was on the receiving end of a heavy tackle by Everton’s Richarlison, which earned the Brazilian a red card.
“There was no surgery needed, but it was still an injury,” Klopp said. “The longer he is out, the longer he has to train before we consider him as a starting lineup player.”
Diogo Jota, who scored a hat-trick in Liverpool’s 5-0 win over Atalanta on Tuesday, had picked up a slight knock in the match but has since resumed training.
“Yesterday was second day recovery, he was involved. So that looked fine,” Klopp added.