Liverpool face a crunch game against Atletico Madrid in one week and it’s vital that Jordan Henderson replaces Fabinho for it.
The Reds don’t just need to win that game. They need to win it by two and the absolute best way to do that is by keeping a clean sheet.
On current form, however, that looks impossible. Liverpool conceded two away at Chelsea on Tuesday, taking their total to eight goals against in four games.
That’s a remarkable stat. The previous eight goals against were over a stretch of 19 games dating back to the end of November. And yet here we are, eight against in just four games.
The biggest change over that span is Fabinho. Funnily enough, that run of eight goals against in 19 games began at home to Napoli – the game Fabinho picked up his injury.
He returned to the starting lineup against Shrewsbury Town, where Liverpool conceded twice. His first start back in the Premier League was the 4-0 win over Southampton.
Fabinho’s run of starts began away at Atletico, however, and he’s started all games since. These last four games are his first run of consecutive starts since the one that ended with the Napoli injury.
Now, we’ve written before about Fabinho and Liverpool’s apparent defensive problems. There’s no doubt that he’s a very talented player, more than worth the £39m the Reds paid, but defensively, Liverpool are playing better without him.
He doesn’t look as though he’s back up to speed since his injury, certainly. Against Chelsea, for instance, he gave the ball away for the first and simply couldn’t keep up with Ross Barkley for the second goal.
The Brazilian will likely improve dramatically before the end of the season, too – but Liverpool don’t have that time. They play Atletico next week and can’t afford to concede like they have been.
When Fabinho was out, Henderson deputised and oversaw a run of 11 clean sheets in 13 games while playing holding midfield.
There’s no doubt that Liverpool are more solid with him there right now. If they want their best chance of beating Atletico, it’s vital that Henderson replaces Fabinho at the base of midfield. If he can get back from injury in time.