John Aldridge has urged Liverpool to sign a new centre-back in the January transfer window.
The Premier League champions will be without Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez for most of the season, while Joel Matip has also joined them on the sidelines.
Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have deputised for their more experienced team-mates, while Fabinho has also slotted into the heart of the defence.
But Aldridge thinks his former club must bring in another central defender next month.
"Word has been coming out of Anfield suggesting Liverpool are not looking to sign anyone next month, but it has to be a smokescreen because they simply have to sign a centre-half if they are serious about retaining the Premier League title," Aldridge told Sunday World.
“Joel Matip's injury in Sunday's 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion confirmed what we have all appreciated for some time now - Liverpool have to spend money on a good quality defender.
"I like Matip, and if he could be relied upon to play the majority of games in the second-half of the season, manager Jurgen Klopp might be able to get through to next summer with the current squad.
"Yet, the reality facing Liverpool heading into Wednesday's game at Newcastle is pretty stark - they have one senior centre-back to call upon and he is a midfielder, Fabinho.
"The injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have ripped a hole in Liverpool's defensive line and with Matip clearly struggling with his fitness, Liverpool are horribly short at the centre of their defence.
"Fabinho has been brilliant filling in at centre-back, but the suggestion that captain Jordan Henderson or Gini Wijnaldum can play in there is nonsense.
"Liverpool need three of their best midfielders to play in the position they are meant to be in, and while Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have done well at centre-back, playing youngsters in such a vital position is a recipe for disaster.
"Against the top sides in the Champions League, youngsters are liable to found out - and that could also be the case in the Premier League.
"Liverpool's transfer committee, and especially recruiter-in-chief Michael Edwards, has done a magnificent job of identifying the right players in recent years and now they need to pull another rabbit out of the hat.
"It's not easy to sign top players in January, but Liverpool pulled off major coups when they got Luis Suarez and Virgil van Dijk mid-way through previous seasons and it shows what is possible.
"I don't know what players may be available in this transfer window, but the Premier League title is on the line here and Liverpool have to do all they can to back Klopp and give him the best chance to clinch it."
Liverpool moved three points clear at the top of the table after Wednesday's scoreless stalemate with Newcastle.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.