Jurgen Klopp has admitted Liverpool’s injury woes cost them in their Premier League title defence and claimed new champions Manchester City wouldn’t have performed so well with three of their centre backs out injured.
Virgil van Dijk – arguably the best central defender in the world – suffered an ACL injury back in October and won’t feature at Euro 2020 with the Netherlands as he focuses on his rehabilitation.
Joe Gomez picked up a tendon issue in November and hasn’t played since, while Joel Matip had been in and out of the side with various fitness concerns before an ankle ligament injury brought an end to his season.
City ran away with the league without any real challengers after the turn of the year, with newly crowned PFA Player of the Year Ruben Dias forming a solid partnership with John Stones. Aymeric Laporte, who featured in the 2018/19 PFA Team of the Year and is widely considered as one of the Premier League’s best centre backs, has played just 16 top flight games as a result.
Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s final day fixture with Crystal Palace, where a win will see them qualify for the Champions League, Klopp claimed having three centre backs out indefinitely would always make it difficult to become champions for the second season running.
He said, as quoted by Goal: “As good as they are, if City have their three centre halves out, no [they do not win the league].
“Three centre halves of United, no. For the whole season pretty much too, that is how it is. [But] the thing about a season is you cannot cut off the negative parts from the positive parts and say that we are nearly there.
“I said when we lost our centre halves, all of them pretty much, we broke our leg, but we could still win games.
“Then we had to – and we had to at that time – make midfielders into centre halves and it broke our spine. Then the whole set-up was gone. The young boys were not ready to play at centre half, the midfielders had to at times [play] at centre half.
“We lost some rhythm all of a sudden but not all the time. A football team is like an orchestra where plenty of people work together and if you lose one piece, you might be able to still do it, but if you lose two then it becomes difficult.
“It is how I said before, this year, with the amount of injuries we have had, it was not the year to become champions. No chance. For nobody.
“We have fought back a bit, accepted the difficulties and made the best of it. And if we win on Sunday, and if we qualify for the Champions League then we made the best of it. That is it.”
The injuries have forced the likes of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams into central defence, but Liverpool can still escape the season with Champions League football for next term despite a horrible run of form from February to March which saw them lose six of seven Premier League games.