Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been on press duty on Friday afternoon ahead of Saturday’s clash with West Ham.
The Reds are looking to keep the heat on early pace-setters Everton, and fresh off the back of a European win which has piled onto his existing injury crisis, there has been plenty for the German to discuss.
Let’s not waste any precious words, then, and get right into it.
Virgil van Dijk’s potentially season-ending injury was bad enough, but Tuesday’s win over Midtjylland saw Fabinho – who has thus far been an adequate stand-in for the big Dutchman – add to the worries.
Klopp confirmed his injury, thankfully, is not as bad as first feared – but he will miss Saturday’s outing.
“Fab is not in, that’s clear. He got a little injury and so he will be out for the weekend and probably slightly longer.
“That’s one thing, but all the others who are fit will be in contention, either on the pitch or on the bench and coming on.”
Friday afternoon also brought the news that Van Dijk had successfully undergone surgery on his knee injury, representing a significant step on his long road to recovery. He remains months and months from a return, however, and Klopp was not keen to put any unnecessary pressure on the Dutchman in what is a difficult period.
“I don’t think it’s the place to talk about personal things. After surgery, a successful one, is this time is always unpleasant. He is good as can be and that’s it. It’s all individual what each person needs but we do everything we possibly can. 100 per cent.
“It’s clear to say he is a quicker healer. He can cope, it’s clear. All these things will help.
“He is a friend, he is our boy but we are used to injuries. It was just how it was unnecessary. The more you like a person, the more you suffer with them.
“Injuries are the worst part of a pro’s life. A part of the game. We are unfortunately used to it. Two things: we care about Virg and will take care of him, but our focus is on available players. That is what we do.”
Klopp also gave updates on Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita, who are both edging closer to fitness after respective spells out.
“Both in a good way with rehab. You saw the Thiago incident, needs time to settle. Not exactly sure as nothing is broken. Desperate to make next steps. Same for Naby, just different injury.
“When the boys train, an ideal world they get enough to prepare for 10 or 20 games, so when someone is in training it doesn’t mean you can use them immediately. I am not in a rush with the boys, the medical dept tell me and that’s the info I work with. We make the best.”
Captain Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, is perfectly fit despite external concerns when he was brought off on Wednesday.
“Jordan Henderson did not have a fitness problem. Responsible is maybe the better word for [the substitution]. I can count a little bit and so I can count the games we played, I can count all the games the players played and we have to try to get through this period.”
In the absence of Van Dijk and Fabinho, it’s possible that 19-year-old Rhys Williams – who replaced the Brazilian from the bench during the week – will have a major role to play in the short-term. Klopp has taken the advice of development coach Vitor Matos to propel the teenager into the first-team set-up and has been impressed with what he has seen so far.
“I cannot say too much about his progress in the last few years, to be 100 per cent honest. But I can say a lot about his progress in the last few weeks or months since he was with us [the first team].
“This is pretty exceptional, but he was already a really good kid when he arrived here. The situation was one of the benefits of having Vitor Matos in the coaching staff because he made us aware of him and said, ‘He is really good, take him in training.’ So that’s what we did and he looked good.
“But we still have Billy ‘the Kid’ [Koumetio] and we have Nat Phillips as well, so these are the boys. Billy was not available for some reasons in the last 10 or 12 days but he’s now back and they train all with us, they are all with us and now we have to make decisions.”
Meanwhile, there is likely to be a milestone start for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is expected to make his 100th Premier League start.
“Great number, interesting journey, super basis as a player and person. He has used it to make big developments. When you see pics from his first game, he was a boy and he is now a man. The difference couldn’t be bigger. Space for improvement he’ll use.
“It’s really nice to be part of this journey as everyone dreams about it, so when you are part of it it makes it special.”
Klopp has changed things up tactically of late, springing a surprise on Sheffield United last weekend when he started Roberto Firmino behind Mohamed Salah in a 4-2-3-1. The German admits such changes are more difficult with less time on the training pitch than in a regular 10-month season, but concedes that it is just part of the job.
“Yes, it’s more difficult, how you can imagine. Nearly impossible but it’s possible and that’s why we try it and will carry on trying it – maybe not exactly that system [used against Sheffield United last weekend] but other systems.
“We have to react always. My job is to use the squad in the best possible way and that’s what I try to do obviously. For the Sheffield United game it meant we changed slightly, so that’s obviously possible that we do similar things at the weekend.
“It depends massively who we have available and what would make sense against a specific opponent on the weekend. It’s a challenge but that’s how it is and we don’t complain about it or whatever, it’s just the situation.”