Liverpool has been fortunate that an injury to Dejan Lovren has coincided with an impressive run from young Joe Gomez at his preferred center back position.
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Gomez is going to have to keep shining for some time, it seems, as Lovren could miss another month or more with the stomach injury aggravated at the World Cup in Russia.
Lovren, 29, has just started running and doing ball work, far from fitness let alone match sharpness.
Liverpool’s schedule is just starting to amp up, having been fortunate to face nearly no one of Top Four consequence in the first four matches of the season.
The Reds are 4-0 in the Premier League, beating Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Brighton and Hove Albion, and West Ham United.
Up next is Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday at Wembley Stadium, and the Reds have seven matches in the next month including visits from Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Chelsea in the League Cup, and Man City in the Premier League.
There’s a visit to Chelsea in league play and a trip to Napoli in the UCL to boot.
Joel Matip will see more time with Lovren out, with 21-year-old Nathaniel Phillips the only other true center back on the squad. Manager Jurgen Klopp loves to lean on his preferred center backs, but a fifth in the fray other than Phillips would make sense (though there are a few midfielders who could drop back).
Come Halloween we’ll know whether Liverpool’s title plans are that of the favorite or a hopeful scrapper.
Liverpool’s Croatian defender has seen his club reach the Champions League final and his country reach the World Cup final. To him, that means the criticism should come to a halt.
“This feels incredible, especially after everything that was said about us before the game,” said Lovren after the win over England in the World Cup semifinal. “We showed our character. We showed that we deserved to be in the final and people should respect us. Sometimes, the criticism is unfair and people should respect me also.”
Paired with World Cup Best XI contender Domagoj Vida, Lovren and the Croatian defense held England off the board after Kieran Trippier‘s 4th-minute free-kick goal.
“People said I had a difficult season [with Liverpool] but I don’t agree with that,” Lovren told BeIN Sports. “I showed why I took Liverpool to the final of the Champions League and now with the national team, and now I’m in the World Cup final.”
”I think people should recognize that I’m one of the best defenders in the world and not just talk nonsense.”
“This criticism is what gets me more motivated to work harder and prove everyone wrong,” Lovren said. “Everyone. From today, everyone in Croatia and around the world saw we managed to make history. In 20 years’ time, people will remember us, and not just the team from 1998. That is why I am proud, and now we have one game to make people remember us forever.”
Lovren made 29 appearances this season for Liverpool in the Premier League and played the full 90 minutes in all but one of Liverpool’s 13 Champions League matches. He has also started and played in every minute of Croatia’s World Cup adventure, save for their meaningless final group stage match against Iceland. The 29-year-old is set to earn his 46th cap in the World Cup final.
”It’s something we’ll never forget. People are crying in our country,” Lovren added about the win over England to reach the World Cup final. “This is something historical for us. We will never forget this. We beat our record 20 years ago and we had it on our shoulders all the time, this weight I would say and people now will never forget us. Now we have the chance to do something even better and hopefully we can do it.”
The World Cup Final is Sunday, and there are three areas which could tip the scales in favor of a Croatian upset or an expected French title.
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Kante and Pogba vs. Modric, Rakitic, Brozovic
Yes, Antoine Griezmann is a midfielder, but he’s a fourth forward if N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba are at their very best. Croatia’s midfield triangle has been responsible for much of its World Cup success, and will need to keep that up if it hopes to collect an upset.
Mandzukic renews acquaintances with La Liga CBs…
Two goals in the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid, one the year before in the final, and an assist in that UCL run-up versus Barcelona.
So, yes, Real’s Raphael Varane and Barca’s Samuel Umtiti have tangled with him a time or two. And the big Croatian striker Mandzukic really seems to be rounding into form.
…And Giroud versus Lovren and Co.
Olivier Giroud has yet to score in the tournament, but sleeping on his industrious performance up top is a mistake. Dejan Lovren has branded himself “one of the best defenders in the world” based on this tournament and his Champions League run with Liverpool.
If France needs to whip crosses toward Giroud, we’d expect things could look a bit like the below highlight reel. Check around the 1:00 mark of this video:
Dejan Lovren is feeling Wednesday’s Croatia win over England in the World Cup semifinals, and he is feeling it deeply.
The Liverpool and Croatia defender will be one of four players in the World Cup Final versus France who were also a part of the UEFA Champions League Final (Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, Luka Modric, and Mateo Kovacic are the other three).
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And Lovren is hoping that another strong tournament gets him a little relief from his critics (From BeIn Sports, video below):
“It’s something for me especially,” Lovren said. “I had people saying I had a difficult season but I don’t agree with that. I’ve shown why I took Liverpool to the Champions League final. Now with my national team we are in the final and I think people should recognize that I am also one of the best defenders in the world and not just talk nonsense.”
He was also asked about Croatia captain Modric, who won the UCL Final with Real.
“Modric, he’s the best midfield player in the world and if we win, he deserves the Ballon d’Or.”
He also talked about his team’s legacy in Croatian history.
Sunday’s Premier League tilt between Liverpool and Southampton at St. Mary’s is bound to be fueled by vitriol (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
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A bevy of ex-Saints are returning to their former home, including this season’s wantaway Virgil Van Dijk.
And while he’s going to be booed with vigor, Dejan Lovren has made the bizarre claim that he’ll hear more of the catcalls.
From The Liverpool Echo:
“I’m still number one! Maybe Virgil is behind me? Let’s see what will happen. Let’s see between me and Virgil who will have the higher decibels [of boos].
“I had a great time at Southampton and will always be thankful for that. I never had any feelings of hate towards the Southampton fans – they helped me and of course, they made some good business.”
We’ll go ahead and wager there’s no chance Lovren is booed more than Van Dijk. In fact, Sadio Mane may be higher up the Reds’ ex-Saints booing order.
Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana are probably safe.