Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 November 2020

Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool youngsters will rise to the challenge amid injury crisis

Leicester and Jamie Vardy pose big threat to weakened defence

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said he hopes the club's young centre backs can step up in the absence of injured regulars as the Premier League champions grapple with a player crisis.

Defenders Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are both set to miss the rest of the campaign after undergoing knee surgeries, with Nat Phillips and teenager Rhys Williams expected to provide cover and partner with Joel Matip.

Klopp said he found himself in a similar situation at Borussia Dortmund, when Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels were fielded together as teenagers, gaining the experience to form the bedrock of his defensive line in two title-winning seasons.

"We cannot compare situations really. I only want to mention it when I came to Dortmund in 2008, my two centre halves were turning 19 and 20 in Subotic and Hummels that winter," Klopp said ahead of Sunday's game against Leicester City.

"We played with them for the entire time and they were talents. We have talent here, they are young – 18, 19, 23 – and we have more experienced players, so we will see. Everybody has a chance.

"We have midfielders, not in the moment but hopefully in a couple of weeks, who can play the more defensive role as well."

Brazilian midfielder Fabinho played as a makeshift defender before he was sidelined with a hamstring issue. Klopp said Liverpool may dip into the transfer market for reinforcements when the window reopens in January.

"I don't know what we can do in January to be honest. I have no idea," Klopp added.

Before that, Liverpool face a tough test. The Foxes present the biggest threat to Klopp's side. Jamie Vardy is the Premier League's joint top scorer this season with eight and is one of only eight men to have scored seven Premier League goals against Liverpool, in just 11 appearances.

He has scored 38 Premier League goals against 'big six' teams since August 2014 and this season he already has a hat-trick against Manchester City and scored the winner at Arsenal, with Leicester only one of two teams to take a point off Liverpool in the last 38 league games at Anfield.

Klopp is well aware of the threat Vardy poses, especially against his under-strength defence.

"It's incredible and how he uses his speed and how smart he is, how he has adapted his game over the years," said the German.

"He is a massive threat for everyone, he really gambles in a good way with the last line, taking the risk in these situations and his technical level is really good.

"Jamie is a proper player and it always a challenge to defend him and the only way I know to defend him is to make sure he doesn't get the pass he wants so that means we have to defend all the others as well."

Updated: November 21, 2020 03:57 PM

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