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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita could solve latest Liverpool problem

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Last season, the Liverpool defence was decimated.

This campaign, Virgil van Dijk is back fit and firing but now it is the Reds midfield that is being hit.

Heading into Saturday’s lunchtime clash with Watford, a number of players could be missing and so once again, the Reds’ deputies will have to stand in.

READ MORE: Diogo Jota injury scare for Liverpool as several players face race for Watford clash

Since the start of last season, manager Jurgen Klopp has not had a strong and settled XI to call on and now, two months into this campaign, injury and fitness problems persist meaning the German must continue to spin plates.

The team are sweating on the fitness of Thiago Alcantara while there are doubts over the availability of Brazil duo Fabinho and Alisson Becker.

In action against Uruguay only 35 hours before the game at Vicarage Road, the goalkeeper and midfielder face a tough ask to play soon after and that’s before you taking into account their travel from South America back to Europe.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has also missed the last two games with an abductor injury meaning James Milner has had to revert to play right-back while Harvey Elliott is a long-term absentee after suffering a left ankle fracture-dislocation at Leeds a month ago.

Further forward and Diogo Jota could return to Anfield early having missed Portugal’s win over Qatar with a reported muscle injury.

It means Klopp will have to turn to his trusted lieutenants in reserve to keep the Reds’ early season form going and the midfield trio taking to the field in Hertfordshire could be Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, although Curtis Jones did return to England under-21 duty in midweek after an initial injury scare.

The positive is, Liverpool have been here before and they will get through it. The players come together, they show a greater resilience than before and grind results out.

Amid a catastrophic injury pile-up at the back last season, captain Henderson and Fabinho, later aided by Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, filled in admirably.

Now, as Liverpool’s midfield struggles for consistency or any kind of rhythm owing to frustrating niggles, setbacks and of course the loss of Georginio Wijnaldum to Paris Saint-Germain, the need for a full squad feels as vital and important as it did throughout the 2020/21 season.

Fortunately, the majority of players who could miss out at Watford will not be long-term absentees but with the Reds just a point off Chelsea in top spot after seven games and Manchester United and City breathing down their necks, every game, every result will have a huge bearing on the final standings.

Alongside Henderson, Keita, who himself has endured his own struggles since signing from RB Leipzig in 2018, won the club’s Goal of the Month prize for his stunning strike against Crystal Palace while Oxlade-Chamberlain has made just one start this season but has another chance to prove why he can be an integral player for Liverpool throughout a demanding campaign.

After a busy summer which combined the Euros, Copa America and the Olympic Games, Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain started in the 3-0 opening day victory at Norwich and already, they already have another strong opportunity to impress.

On Monday, reports suggested former Arsenal man Oxlade-Chamberlain could reluctantly leave Merseyside as he bids to regain his England spot but chances are presenting themselves and showing Liverpool can rely on him, no matter how sparse the calls are, will boost the 28-year-old’s credentials.

If the Reds’ luck with injuries continues at such a rate, Klopp’s fringe players could have a huge role to play this season as Liverpool again battle on four fronts.

Competing for titles and cups, such irritations must be irksome but this team has shown they can shine through adversity.

Of course, missing such major players would dent any team’s progress but Liverpool will have learned a massive deal from last season’s setbacks and will be ready to excel during any given balancing act.

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