Liverpool are set to be missing key midfielder Fabinho for their FA Cup final with Chelsea at the weekend. According to a report from The Times on Wednesday, the Brazil international is now facing a race to be fit for the UEFA Champions League final later this month, meaning he will definitely be sidelined for the Reds’ three matches before that.
Fabinho limped off in the first-half of Liverpool’s nail-biting 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday evening. It didn’t look good for Jurgen Klopp, who was noticeably concerned on the touchline when his midfielder pulled up, and scans after the game confirmed he had suffered a hamstring strain.
Klopp has previously claimed Fabinho is the best in the ‘number six’ position in world football. “Of course, No.6 is Fabinho’s position, he is the best in the world in that position, that is clear.”
Last season showcased Fabinho’s importance to the Liverpool side. In a campaign marred by injury problems, predominantly to their centre-backs, Fabinho was used in defence rather than in midfield.
The 28-year-old did a sterling job as a makeshift centre-half, but the hole in Liverpool’s midfield was obvious. Not being able to play Fabinho in the number six role undermined Liverpool.
The Brazilian brings much greater protection to the Reds’ backline when patrolling the midfield. He’s nicknamed ‘the lighthouse’ for a reason.
Liverpool’s assistant manager Pep Lijnders, when speaking to ESPN in 2019, said: “Inside the ‘organised chaos’ that we want, that we like, he is like a lighthouse, he controls it, and for me, you can still have the style of the gaffer and how we want to identify ourselves. But with Fab in the middle, the ball always goes out round. That’s how they say it in Portuguese.”
His impact on the Liverpool midfield couldn’t be any clearer, and he will be a huge miss for the Reds on Saturday. Chelsea have to take advantage of the Fabinho-shape hole in the Liverpool midfield. Theoretically, his absence should allow more space for whoever Thomas Tuchel chooses to play in his front three.
Jordan Henderson is likely to play in the defensive midfield role on Saturday, and it’s something the Liverpool captain is experienced in doing. Henderson played there and did well against Newcastle United recently, but he cannot offer what Fabinho does in the centre of the Liverpool midfield.
Another thing Fabinho has been able to do this season for Liverpool is to get the best out of his classy teammate Thiago Alcantara. The Spaniard endured a slow start to life in the Premier League last term in what was an injury-riddled campaign for the midfielder.
This season, however, Thiago has been absolutely superb and has essentially silenced any of his doubters from last term. The fact that he has ‘the lighthouse’ behind him, though, has undoubtedly played its part in his resurgence.
It’s not to say Thiago cannot cope without the presence of Fabinho alongside him, but it may restrict him in forward areas. At Wembley, the Spaniard may have more than half an eye on the Chelsea attackers trying to get in between the defence and midfield of Liverpool.