LIVERPOOL • Wary of injuries and with one eye on West Ham, Jurgen Klopp rang the changes as he chose to leave his “Fab Three” of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on the bench for Tuesday’s Champions League Group D game against Midtjylland.
The Danish minnows put on a manful display at Anfield but were eventually beaten 2-0 by Liverpool through Diogo Jota and a Salah penalty in added time.
However, the victory came at a cost, with Klopp suffering another injury blow after Fabinho joined long-term absentee Virgil van Dijk on the sidelines.
The Brazil midfielder, who has been filling in for the Dutch centre-back since his serious knee injury in the Oct 17 Merseyside derby against Everton, had to be substituted in the first half after picking up a muscle problem.
Rhys Williams, 19, came on in his place and Klopp revealed that Joel Matip, who has missed the past three games with a leg problem, was unlikely to be fit for Saturday’s Premier League home game with the Hammers. This leaves Joe Gomez as their likely only available recognised senior centre-back.
“It’s exactly the last thing we needed,” Klopp said of Fabinho’s injury. “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 but clearly it isn’t good.
“Fab, I don’t know. Muscle injuries are like this, you get the result tomorrow morning probably, we have to wait for that.
“It was a tough night. It’s a bit like in a marriage, there are good and bad times. It’s not a bad time but it’s a tricky time, 100 per cent, we have to stick together and fight harder, and that’s what the boys did tonight.”
Academy graduate Williams, who last season was on loan at non-league side Kidderminster Harriers, could now be in line to make his Premier League debut against David Moyes’ side.
While Klopp believes that the teenager can cope with the spotlight, he hit out at the pressure that is already being placed on his shoulders.
“He did really well,” said the German. “The only problem is we have four days to the West Ham game and people will make a story of him, and he has to prove he can deal with that as well as everything was calm around him (until now).
“He is a talented boy, he plays for England U-20s, he is 19 years old and hasn’t played in the Premier League yet but has two Champions League appearances and has won both games, which is pretty exceptional.”
It’s exactly the last thing we needed. 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.
Apart from Williams, Klopp said that he could also call on reserve centre-back Nathaniel Phillips, 23, who has made just one FA Cup appearance for the Reds and untested French youth-team defender Billy Koumetio, 17, although he admitted that it was a bit like wading into the deep end.
“We have very young and inexperienced alternatives, and it looks like we will have to use one of them (against West Ham),” he added. “I don’t know yet.
“But to be really clear and positive, Rhys wasn’t in one situation a problem for us, he had a really good game.”