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Liverpool FC and their quest for center backs

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After winning the UEFA Champions League in the 2018-19 season and winning the 2019-20 English Premier League, the first since the competition was switched to the current format in 1992, Jurgen Klopp’s team appeared to be on top of the world. However, this season has been a little more complicated than expected, especially at the domestic level where they are already out of both cups and in third place in the league.

Part of the problems that have affected the club have had to do with injuries and more specifically in the center back position, where long-term injuries have forced Jurgen Klopp to execute many improvisations. Virgil Van Dijk, one of the best center backs in the world, suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage during a Merseyside derby on October 17, 2020, after a clash with Jordan Pickford of Everton FC. His return is estimated to be in mid-April of 2021.

Joe Gomez suffered a knee injury in November 2020, which led to surgery and will keep him inactive from football practice until June of this year. Additionally, Joel Matip is a good defender who has been constantly affected by various injuries throughout his time at Anfield. In other words, Jurgen Klopp has not been able to count on his first three options for the center back position for most of the season. This situation has forced him to try many alternatives, at this point in the season, equal to 16 center back different pairings, some as curious as Phillips-Henderson, the former being a young player in his first professional season in the English Premier League and the latter being their captain, who has played most of his professional career as a midfielder.

The Brazilian Fabinho, who began his career as a full back and who developed as a defensive midfielder during his time at AS Monaco, has been converted to center back, as a way to use his ability to tackle and recover the ball and he has done a very good job in that regard, but it has not been enough because the team is missing his quality at midfield. In the 2021 January transfer window, Jurgen Klopp probed the market for available center backs, ranging from options that could come free and experienced like Sokratis Papastathopoulos, to young players like Merih Demiral, Turkish center back of Juventus FC.

At the time of writing, Liverpool FC had closed the loan deal of Ozan Kabak, another Turkish center back, in this case from Schalke 04 and Ben Davies, center back of Preston North End, who was rumored to be signing for Celtic FC but it seems that he is finally going to be a Red. It is said that as part of the operation, the young Dutchman Sepp van den Berg would go on loan to The Lilywhites. We will have to wait and see if these signings materialize and if they are the players Liverpool FC need to improve their path through the English Premier League, although, preliminarily, I would see Davies playing alongside Fabinho in defense while Kabak may have to wait a bit to see it in action regularly because, sometimes, players from other leagues require some adaptation to the game of English football.

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