News that Mamadou Sakho is likely to miss the remainder of Liverpool’ season has come as a bitter blow to Jurgen Klopp.
The German manager appeared to be getting the best out of the Frenchman and his centre-back partner Dejan Lovren in recent weeks as they edged towards European glory.
But now, with two massive European League semi-final clashes on the horizon, Klopp must find a solution to Sakho’s absence. And fast.
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The three main candidates are: Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure and Lucas Leiva.
And it appears that it could be Toure who starts in the first-leg at Villarreal on Thursday after he started alongside Lovren against Newcastle at the weekend.
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With Toure given the nod at the weekend, it meant Skrtel had to make do with a place on the bench and Klopp has revealed how the Slovakian reacted.
“Martin Skrtel was not happy that he did not start, but overall he’s cool,” Klopp told reporters, per the Liverpool Echo.
Skrtel has found first-team football very hard to come by under Klopp and he did himself no favours against Southampton in March. The Reds had led 2-0 when Skrtel replaced Lovren at half-time before the Saints staged a comeback to win 3-2 - thanks to some questionable defending from the substitute.
And Klopp has admitted that Skrtel has struggled with fitness since his arrival at Anfield in October.
“He was never really injured when I got here. He could train, play, rest, but then he was injured. Came back, little injury. Back, little injury. Back, a little fit. If we need him he can play,” Klopp said.
However, the former Borussia Dortmund manager had insisted he’s got plenty of options for Sakho’s replacement and is yet to decide who will be starting on Thursday.
Plenty of options
“We have other players so we can say ‘come on, a few days more’. We have Martin, Dejan, Kolo, Lucas and Tiago Ilori so we have a few players who can play centre-half,” he said.
“We can make a decision. We cannot make a row, from number one to number five – if I tell number five he has to play, he might play like a number six.”
Dealing with Bakambu
The job for whoever is selected will be to keep Cedric Bakambu quiet. The Democratic Republic of Congo striker has scored 22 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions - including nine in 11 in the Europa League.
Liverpool are aware that the Europa League is the only way to salvage their campaign. Following their 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, the Reds are seventh with very little chance to achieving a top four finish.
Therefore, they will be focusing on attempting to lift the Europa League - something that would bring automatic qualification into the Champions League as well as their first trophy since 2012.