Jurgen Klopp has been handed a big injury boost at Liverpool as Nathaniel Phillips was set to make his return against Manchester United on Sunday before the game was called off due to protestors at Old Trafford.
The centre-back was forced to sit out recent games against Leeds United and Newcastle United due to a hamstring issue and was a doubt for Sunday’s game against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
However, Phillips was set to start alongside Ozan Kabak in central defence at Old Trafford, with Fabinho moving back into a midfield position.
Although the game was postponed, it is still great news for Klopp to have Phillips back available, especially after he and Kabak formed a formidable partnership earlier in the season.
The 24-year-old, who reportedly earns £64k per week at Liverpool, has proven himself to be an excellent option for the German manager to have this season, capitalising on the long-term injuries suffered by Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to establish himself as a first-team regular at Anfield.
After spending last season on loan at VFB Stuggart in the Bundesliga 2, it seemed as if the young defender had no real future with Liverpool, especially after Klopp confirmed earlier in the season that he was close to leaving last summer due to interest from Championship clubs.
However, he impressed on his Premier League debut against West Ham, with Klopp full of praise for his performance, saying:
“He’s a brilliant guy, smart guy, intelligent, everything. He’s not easy on the eye, he’s not Messi but who cares? In the air, he’s a monster! He was incredible.”
Phillips hasn’t looked back since then and has gone on to make 12 appearances in the top-flight this season, averaging an impressive 7.09 rating for his performances, so it is definitely a boost that he is back fit for the remaining fixtures.
In fact, the Bolton-born defender has achieved somewhat star status at Liverpool, with his old-school style of play making him somewhat of a cult-hero with the fans.
Furthermore, as explained by David Lynch, Liverpool have only won one of nine games since January with Fabinho at centre-back, whereas they’ve won four of six with him in midfield and had that trend continued in the next few games, Liverpool’s chances of Champions League qualification would have been dead,
So, Phillips’ return will allow Fabinho to return to his natural defensive midfield position, and if he and Kabak can pick up where they left off, then the Reds have a great chance of finishing strongly and earning a Champions League spot for next year.
It’s a perfect illustration of how The Reds’ campaign has gone so far that the return of a player who was very, very close to moving to the Championship is now being seen as a man who is needed to help salvage something from what has been a rotten season.
And, in other news… Liverpool handed huge Salah blow ahead of 2021/22, Klopp surely fuming