Martin King has a look at who will partner Virgil van Dijk when Liverpool get their 2018/19 Premier League season underway on Sunday.
It’s a rather uncomfortable feeling.
The little headache you get from the fact that even after such a successful summer, which has served up some vital signings and an excitingly promising brand of football, Liverpool still have question marks over their starting line-up, ahead of their first competitive match of the season.
No more pressing are these questions than in the centre of defence, where we wait and wonder who will partner Virgil van Dijk against West Ham United to complete an eleven that otherwise picks itself.
Injury woes & late-comings
Outside of van Dijk, Jürgen Klopp has four capable centre-half options in Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Joe Gomez, however, heading into this Sunday only one of the four are likely to be available for selection.
Matip and Klavan are battling with injury concerns while Lovren remains behind schedule, following extended leave from Croatia’s run to the FIFA World Cup final.
“Dejan [Lovren] is in, he had not a very long holiday,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website after Liverpool’s friendly win over Torino.
“For Raggy [Klavan] and Joel [Matip], probably they are not fit and cannot play for the weekend, but we don’t need 12 centre-halves, we only need two at least and one to change would be extremely cool.”
Reds U23 star Nathaniel Phillips is likely to be that ‘one to change’ following an impressive pre-season, leaving one man a certainty to start.
Centre-back Joe Gomez
It’s always had a nice ring to it, hasn’t it?
For the first time in his Liverpool career, Gomez heads into a new season fully considered as a centre-back and not the full-back he has been known to be.
Injuries have ruined every chance of fulfilling this role sooner on his part, but should he stay fit, as expected by his manager, the Englishman will line-up alongside his Dutch teammate, forming a partnership that certainly looks promising.
Gomez, a tall, strong and quick defender can combine well with van Dijk, who shares similar qualities, as well as leadership and decision-making skills that will help better the 21 year old’s game as Liverpool seek to put in solid performances from the very beginning.
Senior figures Lovren, Matip and Klavan will be working hard behind the scenes to return to the first team, but Gomez can use their absence to lay the foundations for a strong campaign both individually and for the collective.