Jurgen Klopp faces a Liverpool injury crisis ahead of the FA Cup third-round tie with Exeter. Jose Enrique? “Who?” asks the German.
The Reds currently have 12 players out through injury – no Premier League side is suffering from more – seven of which are hamstring-related. It is expected that at least three of the players who will start against Exeter on Friday will be making their full debuts.
Speaking ahead of the game, Klopp openly ruled out starting anyone who had been involved in the four games in 11 days over the festive period. As a result, Nathaniel Clyne, Alberto Moreno and Emre Can will take places on the bench at best.
Liverpool have been hit throughout their squad, but their problem position is undoubtedly at centre-half. Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren all have hamstring injuries, while Kolo Toure suffered cramp against Stoke in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg. Lucas Leiva finished that game as a central defender, and could reprise his role against the League Two side.
When asked whether left-back Jose Enrique could play alongside him, Klopp replied: “Who?” The German then continued: “Hopefully. We don’t have too many centre-backs so it is an idea. But we have to see. He played the day before yesterday as a full-back for 90 minutes. We all need training but in this game we could need his experience.”
Klopp’s only other ‘senior’ option at centre-half would be Tiago Ilori, who was recalled from his loan at Aston Villa earlier this week. The Portuguese failed to feature for Villa after joining in the summer. He has never played for Liverpool, despite signing in 2013.
Of the 22-year-old’s chances of playing, Klopp said: “I don’t know how he is. He was injured a few weeks ago and now he is in training. I think he played for Aston Villa’s second team a few times and he should be available.”
Klopp faces a choice between Simon Mingolet and Adam Bogdan to start in goal, while Connor Randall and Brad Smith are certain to start at right and left-back respectively.
The Liverpool manager confirmed that his side at St James’ Park would be “very young”. “There are the injuries but you can also be influenced by an intensive period of football [when selecting a side] and so none of the players who played the last five or six games in a row will play at Exeter,” Klopp added. “That is not possible. Then we can try and make a team. It is not easy, but we will try and find one.”
With Ilori in line to make his debut, the centre-half could be joined by Ryan Kent and Sheyi Ojo, both having just returned from loans in the Football League. Joao Carlos Teixeira and Cameron Brannagan could also start.
You can still get Exeter at 15/2, people.