Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold has been sidelined for up to a month with a knee injury, adding to Jurgen Klopp’s mounting defensive injury worries.
The England full-back was hurt in the warm-up before his side’s 1-0 Premier League win over Brighton on Saturday, requiring medical attention ahead of the game.
Alexander-Arnold was able to play the match. Since then, tests have shown damage to knee ligaments, meaning a period of treatment for the 20-year-old.
That means he will miss forthcoming home games with Crystal Palace, Leicester City and the visit to West Ham. He faces a race against time to be available for the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 tie with Bayern Munich on February 19.
Liverpool hope the absence will not be too long. Alexander-Arnold is a quick healer, but it is another significant blow to Klopp who has been losing players with worrying regularity in the last few weeks. He is without two of his first choice back four.
Fellow defenders Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren are still out, although both are making progress in their rehabilitation and Joel Matip made a timely return to the squad last weekend. Matip is in line to start this weekend.
Klopp said after the victory at Brighton he hoped Alexander-Arnold’s injury was minor.
“It was the last situation in the warm-up, I think he stepped on the ball – I didn’t see the situation, I only saw him going down. Immediately Trent was on the ground. He’s a hard boy so that’s not a good sign,” said Klopp following the incident.
“Then the doctor came and said it was pretty painful. He made the sprints but I didn’t like the way he made them because when he slowed down, I thought it looked a bit like limping so I thought it didn’t look good.
“On the way to the dressing room, he told me the pain had gone.
“I don’t know exactly what it was and I hope it was absolutely nothing.”
Unfortunately for the manager and player the pain returned and Klopp will have reassess his options.
Midfielder Fabinho had to fill in at centre-back at the weekend – he did so impressively to continue his rich form – and James Milner is the most likely deputy at right back in Alexander-Arnold’s absence.
With Matip fit again, Liverpool hope Lovren is not far away from his comeback, at the very least being available to feature against Leicester City in two weeks.
Gomez will be back next month – he too will be a full-back option if required. With all these absences temporary, Klopp has been reluctant to explore the transfer market to solve what are anticipated to be short-term problems.
Liverpool have a two week break after this weekend’s Premier League fixture because of their defeat in the FA Cup. Klopp is planning to take his players away for warm weather training, although he is yet to finalise a destination. It has become an annual tradition since Klopp arrived at the club.
“The break that we are getting at the end of January is going to be 100 per cent helpful for the boys with injuries," Klopp said.
"I hope that Dejan and Joe make big steps to come forward.
Liverpool allowed Nathaniel Clyne to join Bournemouth on loan last week but insist there are no regrets over that decision in the light of Alexander-Arnold’s injury. The other options in the position are teenagers Rafa Camacho and Ki-Jana Hoever. Camacho's progress prompted Klopp to let Clyne leave but blocked a move for the Portuguese youngster.
Liverpool also have a slight concern over midfielder Gini Wijnaldum, who also suffered knee pain over the weekend.
The Dutch midfielder is rated doubtful for this weekend, although it is not thought to be a serious setback.
If Wijnaldum misses the Palace visit, Fabinho will return to midfield and Naby Keita come back into contention.