Liverpool have recalled center back Nathaniel Phillips from his loan in Germany, sparking worries that Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip may’ve experienced set backs.
Phillips, 22, had been with Stuttgart since August, making seven starts in his 11 appearances with the 2.Bundesliga outfit.
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Sofascore rates Phillips as one of Stuttgart’s top performers this season, an 88 percent passer out of the back.
He’ll arrive back at Anfield in January.
The Premier League leaders have Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez as healthy center backs. Dejan Lovren is out until next month and Joel Matip is just nearing a return after a late October injury.
The club also has youngster Sepp van den Berg, but he’s only played thrice in the League Cup.
Emergency option Jordan Henderson picked up a knock against Leicester City, and Fabinho remains out, too.
The defender is the son of longtime Middlesbrough and Bolton midfielder Jimmy Phillips.
Liverpool is facing a defensive crisis for the second year in a row, and once again Jurgen Klopp has been forced to use a midfielder along the back line.
Last season through the winter, the Reds were struggling at right-back, with even deputizing James Milner out injured, forcing them to move Jordan Henderson along the back line for a Premier League game against Leicester City in late January, an eventual 1-1 draw. This year, the situation is similar.
Klopp has started club captain Henderson at center-back today against Monterrey in the Club World Cup alongside Joe Gomez, forced into the late change with Virgil Van Dijk stricken by illness. The Liverpool boss flew youth team defenders Sepp van den Berg and Kai-Jana Hoever down to Doha today, but with both having played nearly the full match against Aston Villa in League Cup action yesterday, neither is likely fit for a high-level game the very next day.
Dejan Lovren is down with a muscle injury, while Joel Matip has been out with a knee injury since late October. Klopp could have potentially moved Trent Alexander-Arnold over to help cover, or even used the versatile James Milner in that role, but the Liverpool boss instead decided to rest the England international, with Milner covering at right-back.
Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have also been rested for the Monterrey match, with the duo on the bench to start the game. Liverpool will play in either the final or third-place game on Saturday before returning home to play its massive festive fixture opener against Leicester City on December 26. It’s possible the young Dutch defenders could be options for Saturday’s game but for now Henderson is the man to step in.
Liverpool has two games in two days that are 3,300 miles apart. To cope with the scheduling mess, Jurgen Klopp split his squad and sent a youth team to Villa Park for the the Carabao Cup game while the senior squad made its way to Qatar for the Club World Cup.
Three players will be there for both, however.
21-year-old goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher plus 17-year-old defenders Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Berg have been called in to the senior squad as cover, making the lengthy trip soon after the 5-0 defeat to Villa in Cup play to complete the 23-man Liverpool squad in Doha.
The Cup game against a Villa side starting a host of experienced senior players was always a tall task, but now the Liverpool trio has the opportunity to provide cover for the senior side that is struggling with injuries in certain areas. Most notably, center-back is thin for the Reds with both Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren injured. Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez are starting for the club in both games they have on the docket in Qatar, but should either of them suffer an injury, Dutch pair Hoever and van den Berg would be next up.
Kelleher and van den Berg started and played the full 90 minutes in the Aston Villa loss, while Hoever was also in the starting lineup but withdrawn after 82 minutes for James Norris. The scoreline was harsh on the Liverpool kids who played well at times but saw the first two goals fall quickly – one coming via a brutal deflection, chalked up as an own-goal – and things compounded from there as Liverpool pushed forward hoping to produce a stunning comeback.
Liverpool’s senior squad is on the road at the Club World Cup, so they have a squad of youth players set to take on Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup.
Jurgen Klopp spoke at length over the past few months about how the scheduling bulge through this month has left the squad pulled in two directions, and it has indeed forced them to split into two groups. With Klopp and the senior players in Qatar, with their Club World Cup semifinal against Monterrey set for tomorrow, there was no choice but to leave the youth team to play in the domestic Cup competition.
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Harvey Elliott is the most prominent name in the Reds’ squad, while U-23 boss Neil Critchley takes charge of the side. Recent PEC Zwolle arrival Sepp van den Berg starts at center-back alongside Morgan Boyes, while 22-year-old midfielder Pedro Chirivella captains the side.
On the other side, Aston Villa must navigate the potential banana peel, with elimination at the hands of the Reds’ young, inexperienced squad a potentially embarrassing possibility. Manager Dean Smith has made a significant amount of changes to his main squad, with Jack Grealish left on the bench alongside striker Wesley and midfield engine John McGinn. Defender James Chester, making his first appearance for the club this season, earns the captain’s armband, while striker Jonathan Kodija grabs his first start of the campaign.
Liverpool’s quest to become the second Premier League club to win the Club World Cup begins Wednesday in Qatar against Liga MX side Monterrey.
The Reds hope to join 2008 winners Manchester United as the lone English winners of the 19-year-old tournament. Liverpool (2005) and Chelsea (2012) have also lost CWC finals.
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The tournament crown has belonged in European hands since Corinthians surprised Chelsea in 2012.
The Reds are nearly -1000 favorites to beat Monterrey and the world will expect a tournament crown for the Premier League side, to be sure.
They’ve added Sepp van den Berg, Ki-Jana Hoever, and Harvey Elliott to the team following injuries to Dejan Lovren and Rhian Brewster.
Liverpool play Monterrey at 12:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, 24 hours after fellow favorites Flamengo meet up with Saudi side Al-Hilal.
Here’s a quick roundup of the other three competitors.
The most immediate threat to Jurgen Klopp‘s goals comes in the form of CONCACAF Champions League-winning Rayados. Leonel Vangioni scored a marvelous goal to lead the Liga MX side past Al-Sadd in the quarterfinal. Former Spurs flop Vincent Janssen is in the club, as are familiar faces Miguel Layun (Watford) and Rogelio Funes Mori (River Plate).
The Saudi club got here by beating Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the Asian Champions League, with Sebastian Giovinco and Bafetimbi Gomis leading the way. Gomis scored the lone goal of a quarterfinal defeat of Esperance Tunis, set up by ex-Watford man Andre Carrillo.
The Rio-based South American champions are led by Gabriel Barbosa, who is on loan from Inter Milan and scoring at will. Longtime Schalke and Bayern Munich man Rafinha is on the squad, as is former Chelsea man Filipe Luis. Diego Alves (Valencia) is the man between the posts.