Liverpool’s possible centre-back pairing without Virgil van Dijk – ranked

so what now?

Liverpool look set to be without dominant Virgil van Dijk for a while after the Dutchman suffered a nasty knee injury (have you heard of him?) so Jurgen Klopp now has a way to replace him. Faced with an insurmountable task of searching.

There are a few senior candidates and a handful of academy options, so let’s take a look at the potential options.

Van den Berg still has work to do / Ruby J. Barrett – AMA/Getty Images

Let’s start with emergency options. If all else fails, Klopp could call upon Dutch youngster Sepp van den Berg.

The 18-year-old is highly rated at Anfield but is still a long way from being ready for the first team. More academy football is needed.

It would be a huge surprise to see Klopp turn to 17-year-old Billy Koumetio, but if you’ve ever heard the boss talk about it, you’ll know the Frenchman is in his plans.

His imposing frame and imposing physique would fit in well in the Premier League, but it’s certainly too early for him.

Phillips still an option / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Nate Phillips was expected to seal an EFL loan this summer, but the 23-year-old is still kicking at Anfield and will now be in contention for appearances.

He made 19 appearances on loan with Stuttgart last season, so he is well aware of the difference between academy football and senior football, but whether he has the quality for the job is another matter.

Williams has been the center back of the cup / James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

If Klopp were to turn to his academy, 19-year-old Rhys Williams would surely be top of his list.

Williams has already made two appearances this season, playing alongside van Dijk in both of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup games, so if anyone at the academy knows what to expect in the first team, it’s Williams.

Gomez and Fabinho could join forces / Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Now we are on the main candidates. With Dejan Lovren no longer at the club, midfielder Fabinho will likely be promoted to first reserve at the back.

A problem with the Gomez/Fabinho partnership is the lack of height and physicality. That dominant presence at the back is no longer there, and whichever team plays in the air will automatically have an advantage. Even teams that don’t play this way will adapt because they see it as a weak spot.

Gomez seems to need a vocal leader with him to reach his true potential, but without Van Dijk, there are real questions about how he will cope.

Gomes and Matip are the only senior centre-backs left/Screet Images/Getty Images

It’s important to add Matip to the team. The Cameroon international could do a good job of making up for the loss of height, plus he is the best ball-playing defender currently available.

What he lacks in pace can be made up for with Gomez, who is agile enough to cover enough ground for their pairing.

However, is this the most physically unreliable partnership in history? You can lose one of them to injury at any second, which will not fill the rest of the team with confidence.

Matip and Fabinho could be the best way forward / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

If we’re trying to make up for the lack of Van Dijk, Matip and Fabinho seem like the best way to go.

It’s not a perfect pairing – there’s not much pace on show here – but it’s an aerially impressive pair that Liverpool need to help build at the back.

Fabinho and Matip have played together once before, in the 2018/19 Champions League last 16 tie against none other than Bayern Munich, and they kept a clean sheet!

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