Liverpool have had defensive issues compounded by Dejan Lovren's late withdrawals
Jurgen Klopp’s craving for a stable defence has been hindered by Dejan Lovren’s late withdrawal from Liverpool’s last two games. Lovren was selected in the starting line-up to face Burnley in the Premier League last weekend and Leicester City in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup, but he was unable to take his place due to a sore back. Klopp called up Ragnar Klavan against Burnley, and Lovren was again taken out of the line-up as a precaution at the King Power Stadium where Joe Gomez was moved to centre-half and Jon Flanagan recalled. With so much attention on Klopp’s back four, the loss of his senior centre-back has accentuated the problems. After a 1-1 draw with Burnley at Anfield, Liverpool were knocked out of the Carabao Cup 2-0 by Leicester, and Klopp was again forced to address ongoing concerns about his side’s defensive shortcomings. The fact the manager was forced into a change of line-up just hours before kick-off did not help. Joe Gomez moved to centre-back on Tuesday after Lovren's withdrawal Credit: Reuters Lovren has been suffering with a back issue since the international break. He was surprisingly on the bench against Manchester City, but played against Sevilla in the Champions League. Klopp spoke before the Burnley fixture about how much he trusted his defenders, but Lovren’s absenteeism has started to become a worrying theme of his Liverpool career. Despite criticism of the Croatian - who signed a new Liverpool contract last season - the team concede fewer goals and have a higher win rate when he is on the pitch. Since signing for Liverpool in 2014, the 28-year-old Croatian has missed 37 of Liverpool’s 119 Premier League games. The most consecutive league games he has started under Klopp is eleven. Klopp has rarely been able to call upon Joel Matip and Lovren, Liverpool's first-choice partnership at centre-back Credit: Reuters Klopp has only been able to select his first choice central defensive pairing of Lovren and Joel Matip on 19 occasions since Matip’s arrival a year ago. Liverpool have played 43 league games since then. As a duo, Lovren and Matip have conceded only 15 Premier League goals. This inconsistency in selection due to injury is one of the reasons Liverpool’s need for central defensive reinforcement was so essential last summer, but as recently as last week the manager spoke about the trust he has in the personnel at his disposal. “With all the history before I came in and since I've been here with how people talk about these players, you really should try one time to go out there and ask other clubs what they think about these defenders and whether they would like to pick them. You would be really surprised,” Klopp said last week. “I'd give them all the advice: don't read anything. But with the world of social media that's quite difficult for the boys. They all know what people think and say in this moment. Klopp's Liverpool signings “Two people say you're good and you think 'okay', five people say you are bad and it feels like a stitch or whatever. Dejan is not 18 any more. He's a man, he's a father of two kids. He can deal with it.” Liverpool hope Lovren will be available for the return to Leicester City in the Premier League this weekend, when Klopp will recall Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Daniel Sturridge and Emre Can. But one of the most disappointing consequences of their early cup exit is the limits it will place on first team football opportunities for some of the club’s exciting youngsters. Ben Woodburn, for example, may now have to wait until the FA Cup for a starting place, while the likes of Dominic Solanke and Marko Grujic’s chances to impress in the immediate future are also likely to be restricted to substitute appearance. Klopp was eager to challenge for all four trophies and felt his squad strong enough to do so.