Jurgen Klopp’s message surrounding Liverpool defender Billy Koumetio appears to have had a literal effect with the 18-year-old not among the Reds’ under-23 team to take on Southampton this afternoon.
The Liverpool boss appeared to suggest that Koumetio was first-team bound on Friday afternoon after he provided a timely reminder of his track record with young defenders.
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez could miss the remainder of the season with both nursing long-term knee injuries, leaving Joel Matip as the only recognised centre-back at the club.
Fabinho, can deputise in defence but given the confirmed absence of Jordan Henderson, the Brazilian will be needed in midfield.
It leaves Klopp with potentially three inexperienced options to partner Matip against Leicester with either Nathaniel Phillips, Rhys Williams or Koumetio to pick from.
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It is worth noting that Klopp has been in a similar situation with Dortmund before .
“I don’t want to compare situations but when I came to Dortmund in 2008 my two centre-halves were 19 and turned 20 that winter and we played with them for that entire time,” he explained, per Sky Sports.
“Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic.
“We have talent here. They are young – 18, 19, 23 – and we have more experienced players, so we will see. Everybody has a chance.
“They can smell the chance and they step up. They want to show they are ready and we will see.”
With that said, Klopp could be proving true to his word after the club opted not to risk Koumetio in the U23s match with Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
Klopp understands that if his young defenders are going to develop, the best case could be to throw them in the deep end and see if they sink or swim.
The early signs have been positive with both Phillips and Williams impressing when called upon. Klopp holds Koumetio in equally high esteem after he lauded the teenager as ‘sensational’ during Liverpool’s pre-season tour in Austria.
Koumetio’s lack of involvement for Barry Lewtas and the U23s isn’t to suggest that Klopp is going to start the Frenchman but more that he wants to see him become accustomed to the first team environment.
With two centre-backs already out for the majority of the season and Matip’s worrying injury record under consideration, it is increasingly possible that Klopp could be thrown a scenario where Phillips, Williams and Koumetio become his best options in the heart of the defence.
If so, this suggests we’ll see Koumetio in the first-team before long. December will be the busiest part of the season, after all, and we know the teenager is impressing.
Liverpool have as many as 12 games in the next 42 days meaning squad rotation is going to become a common concept for the Reds.
With that said, getting Koumetio involved with the first team as much as possible can only be in the best interests of the club’s imminent defensive priorities.