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Jurgen Klopp wary of rushing injured players back despite Reds’ defensive woes

Liverpool v Midtjylland – UEFA Champions League – Group D – Anfield
(Image credit: Michael Regan)

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has stressed the need for care to be taken with the timing of players returning from injury as the Reds turn their focus to Saturday’s clash with West Ham.

With others doubtful or ruled out, 19-year-old centre-back Rhys Williams could make his Premier League debut in the match at Anfield.

Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League home win over Midtjylland saw Williams come on as a replacement for Fabinho, who limped off in the first half with a muscle issue – the Brazilian had again been playing in defence in the absence of Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip.

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As well as that pair – with Van Dijk facing months out – Klopp has also been without the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita and Kostas Tsimikas.

Klopp has said he is unsure if Matip will be available for Saturday, and he added: “If it would be only one game we play, if it was the last game of the season, then I think we could make probably one or the other fit for one game.

“But then we play three days later again (at Atalanta) and we need again players.

“The players who are now injured, we cannot use them on the first day of being fit again, or not injured any more. They need then a proper build-up for the rest of the season, and that’s what we try.

Fabinho's injury against Midtjylland added to Liverpool's defensive problems (Michael Regan/PA).

Fabinho’s injury against Midtjylland added to Liverpool’s defensive problems (Michael Regan/PA)

“It is this juggle all the time between the fit players – how much can they play still – and when can we use the others again.

“We are really interested in that fact so you can imagine we try everything to make everybody fit as quick as possible.”

After Klopp opted to start Tuesday’s contest with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on the bench, Liverpool produced an underwhelming first-half performance in which they failed to register a shot on target.

The two subsequent occasions when they did resulted in goals, Diogo Jota tapping home in the 55th minute after good work by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Xherdan Shaqiri, and then Salah – introduced on the hour along with Mane, and joined by Firmino in the 81st minute – converting a stoppage-time penalty.

Mohamed Salah scored a stoppage-time penalty on Tuesday after coming off the bench (Michael Regan/PA).

Mohamed Salah scored a stoppage-time penalty on Tuesday after coming off the bench (Michael Regan/PA)

Midtjylland, who are making their Champions League group-stage debut this season, twice went close to equalising, through Evander and Anders Dreyer.

Klopp said: “The game was really tricky. They pressed like crazy, made a really hectic game of it and we couldn’t calm it down in the decisive moments.

“When a team defends like them you need your patterns and we didn’t show them. But we scored a goal anyway (Jota’s) in probably the best football moment. They had really big chances and Ali (Alisson Becker) was there.

“Then, you just have to fight and that’s what we did. It’s like in a marriage – in good and in less good times, you have to stick together.

Midtjylland's Anders Dreyer went close to equalising just before Salah's goal (Jon Super/PA).

Midtjylland’s Anders Dreyer went close to equalising just before Salah’s goal (Jon Super/PA)

“That’s the moment. It’s just a tricky one – a lot of games, player after player says goodbye for a while (with injury) and then we still have to play the next game, and in our case we have to win it.

“We try with all we have and I’m really happy with that.”

Liverpool are two points clear at the top of Group D having won each of their first two games.