Liverpool have been dealt an injury crisis at centre-back this season, with three of Jurgen Klopp’s first-choice defenders currently unavailable.
It has been a testing campaign so far for Klopp, who has been forced to use youngsters Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams at the heart of his defence on a number of occasions.
Fabinho has also been used as a makeshift centre-half in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, who picked up potentially season-ending injuries towards the end of 2020.
Joel Matip has also struggled with fitness problems of his own throughout the campaign and is now set to spend another period on the sidelines.
So when can Reds fans expect their three injured centre-backs to return?
Virgil van Dijk
The biggest blow of Liverpool’s season so far came when Van Dijk sustained an ACL injury in their 2-2 draw away at Everton in September, a problem which usually requires around six months of rehabilitation.
Klopp says the Dutchman has been making encouraging progress in his recovery, which saw him complete an exercise bike session last week.
However, the Reds boss also admits his star defender still has “a long way to go” before a return date can even be discussed.
After losing Van Dijk, Klopp was dealt another major setback when Gomez ruptured his patella tendon while on England duty two months later.
The 23-year-old, who was forced to undergo surgery on the injury, is in a similar boat to his centre-back partner with a return date still unclear.
But he has also been stepping up his rehabilitation at Melwood, posting a picture on Instagram that shows him on an exercise bike with the caption: “There’s beauty in the struggle”.
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The 29-year-old has suffered with niggling issues this season, meaning Klopp has often been forced to deploy either Williams or Phillips alongside Fabinho at centre-back.
And he picked up another problem in their 1-1 draw at home to West Brom last week, which has since been diagnosed as an abductor injury.
Klopp expects Matip to spend around three weeks out, with their clash against Burnley on January 21 a likely return date.
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