Liverpool's clash with Manchester United on Thursday will likely come too soon for Ozan Kabak, as the centre-back continues to recover from the muscle problem that kept him out of their win over Southampton.
Kabak has proved to be a valuable addition since his arrival on an initial loan from Schalke, providing vital cover while Liverpool's three first-choice centre-backs are on the sidelines.
He had formed a promising makeshift partnership with Nat Phillips, starting alongside him in six successive games before his unexpected absence against Southampton at the weekend.
Given Liverpool's lack of options elsewhere, his omission from the squad all but confirmed he was injured, and Jurgen Klopp did confirm when he spoke to the press in the moments prior to kick-off.
“With Ozan, we don’t know exactly, we have to wait and see a little bit," he said. "It’s a muscle thing, it happened without any real intensity but still serious enough for not being involved."
While there has been no word from Liverpool yet on the extent of the problem, The Athletic are now reporting that Kabak is 'highly unlikely' to feature when the Reds travel to face Manchester United in Thursday's rearranged game.
With Ben Davies still injured, it means Klopp will either have to turn to the inexperienced combination of Phillips and Williams, or risk weakening his midfield by moving Fabinho into centre-back where he has deputised on a number of occasions this season.
Ozan Kabak:— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) May 4, 2021
“He [Van Dijk] gave me small tips about our football mentality. I think defenders understand each other better and he came with some small tips about how we play or what I need to do. It helps [my] game.” #awlfc [lfc] pic.twitter.com/caPocDt9Cw
Ahead of such a huge game that could make or break their top four hopes, neither option is ideal, but such has been the story of Liverpool's injury-ravaged season.
They will be hoping to have him back in time to face West Brom at the weekend, given they need a pretty-much perfect finish to stand any chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League. They currently sit in sixth with six points separating them from fourth-placed Leicester, but a victory over United in their game on Thursday would cut the gap to three.
With just three games remaining, though, they would need to win their remaining fixtures and hope for a favour elsewhere. But Leicester's gruelling run of fixtures - against United, Chelsea and Spurs - gives them a glimmer of hope in that regard.