Jürgen Klopp believes Fabinho’s confidence and stature in the heart of Liverpool’s defence will continue to grow after the Brazilian produced a dominant display in the Champions League victory at Ajax.
Fabinho made a decisive contribution to the win with his spectacular goalline clearance preventing Dusan Tadic equalising Nicolás Tagliafico’s match-winning own goal. The midfielder was once again forced into central defence by injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joël Matip and, with Liverpool’s vice-captain facing months on the sidelines with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Klopp drew encouragement from Fabinho’s fledging partnership with Joe Gomez.
“Was there pressure on that situation tonight? Yes,” said Klopp of his central defensive problems. “It’s clear for the two in the back as it was their first game together, I think. Fabinho can play the position, he likes playing it actually. If I asked him to play right‑back I don’t think he would enjoy it as much. In our situation we have to keep them boys fit. But I’m really pleased for tonight. It gave him confidence for sure.
“It was good but even Fabinho can play better. Joe and Fabinho need to get used to each other, they need to get used to the verbal demands of the position and helping the midfield. It was a good performance but there is a lot to improve, and that is good. It was absolutely good tonight.”
Klopp admitted Liverpool required “a bit of luck” to keep a clean sheet with Fabinho’s clearance and Davy Klaassen, the former Everton midfielder, striking a post in the second half. “We don’t hang the clean sheet too high because there were two situations where we were far away from perfect,” he said.
Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané were all substituted on the hour but the Liverpool manager insisted that was not to rest them for the game against Sheffield United on Saturday, or as a result of injury. Mané had an ice pack on his knee after being withdrawn.
Klopp said: “You could see it was an intense game and if you win the ball you have a big chance with the offensive transitions. It was hard for the front three so I was happy we could do that change and make five changes tonight. Sadio has had a dead leg for a few days. It is still painful but it is not a problem and when he does not play he puts ice on it.”