Dejan Lovren insists he can step up to the plate and replace Mamadou Sakho in the Liverpool defence.
Sakho limped off with a knee injury during the Reds’ 2-1 home loss to Crystal Palace prior to the international break and is set for at least two months on the sidelines.
Lovren’s time at Anfield hasn’t been the most straightforward since his £20 million move from Southampton in 2014 and has struggled to show his best qualities that he regularly did on the south coast.
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Sakho had been in a rich vein of form since Jurgen Klopp took the helm in L4, having added much needed solidarity to the rear-guard, but Lovren is adamant he can be relied on in his teammates absence.
“Mama had a really good couple of games and a good start to the season,” the Croatia international told Liverpool’s official website. “We played in Rubin Kazan together and were feeling really good.
“But you never know in football – injuries can happen today or tomorrow. So you need to be prepared. I was working hard all the time so I’m ready and looking forward to playing.
“Last year I had a tough year.I didn’t do pre-season with the team and everything was such a rush.
“Everyone, all together, has started better than last year. It was important for me that I had a good pre-season with the team and I’m feeling more comfortable now.
“I know the expectations – I know a little bit more about the club and the feelings of the fans. When you do a pre-season outside the UK, you see what a great club and a big club it is.
“I’m proud to be here. Now my thing is to be here for as long as possible and to win something with the club.”
During his one-and-a-bit seasons at Liverpool, Lovren is yet to convince the majority of fans that he is worth the hefty price-tag paid for him.
When he first joined, Brendan Rodgers talked about him as being the new leader of the Reds’ back-four and a replacement for Jamie Carragher.
However, the 26-year-old failed to settle during the early days of his Anfield career and has not got into a decent rhythm since.
During the 2014/15 campaign, Lovren was the pantomime villain at the club. From rocketing his penalty over the bar to send Liverpool out of the Europa League in the shoot-out against Beskitas to doing similar with a last-minute shot in the FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa, he did little right and received heavy criticism.
He also got himself into trouble when defending fairly often. Last term, he registered no less than six defensive errors, with four coming within the first half of the season, and his positioning at times was well below standard.
He also looked to be trying far too hard to impress. Instead of playing simple passes to the right man, sometimes Lovren would look to wow the crowd and carry the ball for far too long which, for more often than not, would lose him the ball.
That bad habit has seemingly continued this term.The Zagreb native was at fault for Mark Noble’s goal in his side’s 3-0 defeat to West Ham United at home when he did not clear the ball in to touch.
Lovren played up alongside Martin Skrtel for the majority of his appearances last season and the partnership proved to be a recipe for disaster.
In 17 appearances playing together in the heart of the back-four, they managed to keep just two clean sheets, and both started in the Reds' disastrous 6-1 loss to Stoke City on the final day of the season.
Skrtel’s form has been noticeably better alongside Sakho, likewise Simon Mignolet, who made a series of errors when Lovren was a regular last term.