Liverpool have been handed another defensive injury scare after teenage centre-back Rhys Williams, who has been thrust into the limelight this season, was left out of England’s Under-21 game against Albania with a hip problem.
The Reds are already down to the bare bones at the back, with both Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez nursing long-term knee injuries that will keep them out for most of the rest of the season. The club opted not to replace Dejan Lovren when he was sold in summer and Joel Matip has only recently returned from his own injury problem and has had a patchy fitness record since 2018.
Fabinho has been an emergency stand-in this season, yet even he got injured. The Brazilian is set to return after the international break, but Williams, who spent last season on loan at Kidderminster in the sixth tier of English football, and Nathaniel Phillips are the only other recognised fit centre-backs.
As well as a centre-back crisis, Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to miss the next weeks with a hamstring problem he suffered in the recent draw with Manchester City, while Andrew Robertson also complained of a tight hamstring earlier in this international break.
England Under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd explained Williams’ absence this week was down to a ‘very minor stiff hip’, considering it best for him to be return to Liverpool to be assessed.
Despite the injury pile up at the back, Liverpool do not currently intend to pursue a centre-back in the January transfer window and are focusing their recruitment plans on summer.
However, it hasn’t been completely ruled out and 90min has learned that the Reds’ owners have made it clear to manager Jurgen Klopp they are prepared to sanction a deal six months earlier than planned if it makes financial sense.
It has been Liverpool’s intention to ultimately to bring in another centre-back since Lovren was sold to Zenit St Petersburg in July and scouts have been tracking Schalke's Ozan Kabak, Villarreal's Pau Torres, Shakhtar Donetsk's Mykola Matvienko, Sevilla's Jules Kounde and RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano since then as they assess potential options.
Whether that will be in January or summer will depend on the next six weeks. It isn’t out of the question to happen sooner rather than later, but waiting is the preferred strategy.