Football

‘Player of the season’ Fabinho a massive injury concern for Klopp

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp faces an anxious wait to discover the extent of the injury suffered by his key midfielder Fabinho in yesterday morning's (Singapore time) 1-1 Champions League draw with Napoli.

The Brazilian - a £39-million (S$69m) signing from AS Monaco - hobbled off in the 19th minute of the Group E encounter with an ankle injury.

"The biggest thing is the Fabinho injury, that's massive," said Klopp.

"It's early and we all hope it's not too serious, but it's pretty painful and in an area you don't want to have pain, around the ankle. I don't want to say what I expect because I hope it is not serious. He has pain, which is not good. He couldn't continue. We'll know more maybe tomorrow or the day after."

Klopp's anxiety is understandable, as Liverpool have not lost any of the 32 English Premier League games Fabinho has started since his arrival in 2018.

The EPL leaders, who are looking to end a 30 year-wait for an English top-flight title, host Brighton & Hove Albion tomorrow.

They are entering a vital phase of the season with 10 games before the end of the year, including the two games in the Club World Cup in Qatar next month.

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand acknowledged the importance of Fabinho, saying he has been the Reds' best player this season.

"What I love about him, everyone can talk about the tackles and that in front of the back four, but the way he reads the game and the awareness of the forwards behind him, that's an art in itself and he does it as good as anyone at the moment," Ferdinand told BT Sport.

"He shields play, he shields balls into the frontman... He has been Liverpool's best player this season."

Fellow BT Sport pundit Michael Owen added that Fabinho outshines Chelsea star N'Golo Kante and former Blues legend Claude Makelele because of his physical presence.

"Fabinho got a presence, hasn't he?" the former Liverppool striker said.

"Listen, there's some great centre midfielders in that position. The likes of Makelele and Kante in recent times who are small and play in that position.

"But if I were a manager, I would love a presence in there.

"He's got a great shape to play that position, half the time he is blocking the path into the frontman.

Owen's former Reds teammate Harry Kewell added that, while Fabinho will be a "big loss", they have other options.

Likening him to the sponge, Kewell said: "He's soaking everything up.

"When he receives the ball, he passes it forward - which many holding midfielders don't do. It's a big loss, but I'm confident that there are plenty to fill in."

Football