Liverpool have seen their defensive options chiselled down further after another setback for youth prospect Nathaniel Phillips.
The 21-year-old had emerged as a possible short-term solution to the Reds’ recent injury woes, with Virgil van Dijk currently the only fit senior centre-back at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal.
Phillips has, however, been nursing a less-coveted ankle injury since November, hence his omission from the first team squad over the festive period.
In another blow to his recovery, the former Bolton Wanderers man has been forced to undergo surgery on the issue and is now set for an extended spell on the sidelines.
Speaking to Liverpoolfc.com, U23s manager Neil Critchley said: “Nat is going through a period of rehabilitation after having an operation.”
“We saw him play 45 minutes against Everton but he wasn’t quite right in that game and didn’t feel right. The physios went down a different route in terms of how to handle his injury.”
He added: “He has had surgery and I don’t want to put a timeframe on when he will be back, but we know one thing with Nat is that he is very conscientious with the hard work he does, and hopefully we can have him back before the end of the season.”
Summer signing Fabinho is now expected to be deployed as a make-shift centre-back when Liverpool resume their Premier League title challenge away to Brighton on Saturday.
The Brazilian was handed an introduction to the role in Monday night’s FA Cup defeat to Wolves at Molineux, where he found himself playing beside 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever following Dejan Lovren’s early injury.
He will have perhaps the perfect mentor in Van Dijk to take instructions from if asked to carry out the responsibility again by his manager.
It remains to be seen whether Joel Matip will be available for selection after he returned to training during the week following his six-week layoff.