Liverpool’s League Cup semi-final first leg victory at Stoke at Tuesday night came at a cost, with the Reds losing both Philippe Coutinho and Dejan Lovren to hamstring injuries, as well as seeing Kolo Toure limping the dying moments.
Coutinho’s importance to the Reds is obvious, but the blow to Lovren looks particularly galling given that the Croatian had been enjoying his best form in the side since the appointment of Jurgen Klopp.
With Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho also out injured at the moment, the Reds are seeking to recall Tiago Ilori from a loan spell at Aston Villa during which he’s not actually played for the Premier League’s bottom club, but Klopp has also hinted that he might need to enter the transfer market to find a solution.
Here are five defenders he could be looking at:
Joel Matip, Schalke
Cameroon centre-back Matip is the most obvious choice, with numerous well-sourced media reports linking the Reds with a move for the 24-year-old when his Schalke contract expires in the summer.
Also able to play in defensive midfield, the German-born Matip has become widely, er, ‘tipped’ to be one of Klopp’s first Reds signings for a while now, but the German boss might hope that he can use his powers of persuasion to convince Schalke – his former rivals when he was at Borussia Dortmund – to let him go now for a small fee.
Having come through the ranks at Schalke, Matip is now in his seventh season in the first-team and is highly regarded in the Bundesliga. After choosing to represent the country of his heritage rather than his birth he played for Cameroon in the 2010 World Cup, and also achieved the feat of scoring against hosts Brazil in the 2014 tournament – his only international goal to date.
A move for Matip would certainly ensure that Klopp wouldn’t face accusations of panic buying, and the 6ft 4ins defender should be able to slot straight into the team.
Neven Subotic, Borussia Dortmund
You were never too far away from a rumour linking Liverpool with Marco Reus even before Klopp got the top job at Anfield, and now that he has you can also throw the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into the mix too.
It might not be as sexy, but far more likely than any of them, though, would be a move for Hummels’ centre-back partner Subotic, who played under Klopp at Mainz before moving with the manager to Dortmund in the summer of 2008.
A great relationship blossomed, with Subotic a key figure as Dortmund won back-to-back Bundesliga titles between 2010 and 2012 and reached the Champions League final a year later.
Since the departure of his former mentor, though, the Serbia international – who represented the United States at under-17 and under-20 level after his family had moved to the US in late 1990s – has fallen down the pecking order at the Westfalenstadion, with Sven Bender and Sokratis Papastathopoulos surpassing him in Thomas Tuchel’s plans.
Although he has had injury problems this season he is still only 27, and reuniting with Klopp at a third different club could be a huge benefit to both.
Martin Caceres, Juventus
Another who has been linked with Liverpool in the past, Caceres appears to be set to leave Juventus after losing his place in the team and with his contract expiring in the summer.
Unibet’s Serie A expert Adam Digby discussed the Uruguayan’s time in Turin and the likelihood of a move to Liverpool in more detail this week, but the 28-year-old former Barcelona and Sevilla defender would seem to tick all the boxes that Klopp is looking to be ticked right now.
He shouldn’t be too expensive, and the 68-times capped international would offer the Reds valuable cover.
Whether he’d be interested in leaving for a team where he wasn’t necessarily a guaranteed starter when everyone’s fit is a different matter, though, but it would be worth looking into.
Nicolas Nkoulou, Marseille
Linked with Newcastle and Chelsea in the past, Marseille centre-back Nkoulou is another whose contract is running out in the summer.
The 25-year-old often plays as Matip’s central defensive partner for Cameroon, and he’s been a regular for both country and club since a move from Monaco in the summer of 2011.
Another switch seems certain to figure in his 2016, and with Chelsea now under new management and Newcastle a bit of shambles, Liverpool could have a clear run at a man named in Ligue 1’s Team of the Year in 2012 and 2013 should Klopp want to make a move.
Jonathan Tah, Bayer Leverkusen
We’re going back to Bundesliga for our final choice, although Tah would be seen very much as a signing made to ensure Liverpool’s defensive future rather than a player to solve the current centre-back crisis.
Widely-tipped as a future Germany captain, the 19-year-old only joined Bayer Leverkusen from Hamburg last summer, but he has immediately begun to look at home at his new club, turning in a series of impressive displays including against Barcelona in the Champions League when the German side kept the hosts scoreless for 80 minutes.
He’s played 26 times for Leverkusen this season, and after breaking into the Germany under-21 setup he has an outside chance of making the full squad for the Euro 2016 finals.
Strong and powerful, Tah would appear to be perfectly suited to the Premier League, and whilst it might be too tough an ask to prise him away from Leverkusen already, his could be a name to look out for in the summer.