Liverpool’s Defensive Dilemma: Phillips and Williams in Recall Talks Post Joel Matip’s Injury

Liverpool's Defensive Dilemma: Phillips and Williams in Recall Talks Post Joel Matip's Injury
Liverpool's Defensive Dilemma: Phillips and Williams in Recall Talks Post Joel Matip's Injury

With Joel Matip‘s anterior cruciate ligament injury confirmed, Liverpool is allegedly thinking about calling up both Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips from their respective loan stints.

In the 2023–24 campaign, former Cameroon international Matip had started to solidify his position as Virgil van Dijk’s primary centre partner.

However, two weekends ago, during the Reds’ thrilling 4–3 victory against Fulham, he suffered a knee injury that ended his career.

Liverpool's Defensive Dilemma: Phillips and Williams in Recall Talks Post Joel Matip's Injury

Matip’s diagnosis greeted Jurgen Klopp with dismay when scans revealed that the 32-year-old had sustained a total ACL tear, which is expected to keep him out of action for the remainder of the season.

In the top level this season, Matip had mostly kept Ibrahima Konate on the bench. However, the Frenchman, who has struggled with injury of late, will now be expected to start alongside Van Dijk on a regular basis going forward.

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In the centre of defence, Klopp also has Joe Gomez and 20-year-old academy product Jarell Quansah at his disposal. Wataru Endo, a holding midfielder, may also be called upon to play at the back in an emergency.

Though Klopp has downplayed rumours that the Reds could seek a replacement for the former Schalke 04 player, Matip’s devastating blow has inevitably given rise to rumours that Liverpool could target a new centre-back in the January transfer window.

Alternatively, the Daily Mail believes that Liverpool is considering whether to call Williams back to Anfield from Aberdeen, and a different story from The Mirror suggests that Phillips, a Celtic loanee, would also be called back to Merseyside.

Since their first-team breakouts, the two have only been supporting cast members for Liverpool; however, they famously enjoyed a run of games during the second part of the 2020–21 season, when Gomez, Matip, and Van Dijk were all sidelined by injuries.

Before losing to Real Madrid in the 2021–22 Champions League final, Klopp said that Liverpool would not have been in that position without Williams and Phillips. Klopp’s team barely made it into the Champions League that year.

However, Williams was loaned out to Blackpool and Swansea City before joining Aberdeen for the 2023–24 season this summer, therefore neither player has gone on to establish himself as a mainstay in the Anfield giants’ starting lineup.

The 22-year-old’s move to Pittodrie hasn’t gone as planned, though, as he has only played one Challenge Cup match for the B team and hasn’t made a single senior appearance for Aberdeen.

Along with Williams, Phillips crossed the line over the summer, signing a short-term contract with Celtic after his plans to leave Liverpool permanently fell through. The 26-year-old has played in a few games under Brendan Rodgers.

Although Phillips has made eight appearances for the Bhoys in all competitions—including two starts in the Champions League against Lazio and Atletico Madrid—he has only started three Scottish Premiership games from the outset.

However, Liverpool has not yet made a decision on their defense predicament. If Quansah keeps up his good play, the Reds may even decide not to bring back Phillips and Williams at all.

On Thursday, Klopp’s team plays Union SG to wrap up their excellent Europa League group stage campaign. On Sunday, they host Manchester United at Anfield for a thrilling Premier League match.

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