Michael Owen identifies absentee Liverpool will miss most before big games

Michael Owen says Liverpool's injury crisis will affect players psychologically as well as giving Jurgen Klopp selection issues.

The former Reds star has identified one player whose absence will be felt the most by his team-mates ahead of the big games this season.

Liverpool face Premier League leaders Leicester this weekend with manager Klopp missing up to nine first-team stars.

Joe Gomez suffered a knee injury on England duty this week to join fellow centre-back Virgil van Dijk and midfielder Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain on the long-term casualty list.

Trent Alexander-Arnold will be out for the next few weeks with a calf issue, while midfielders Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara are both racing to be fit after injuries suffered before the international break.

Skipper Jordan Henderson returned to Liverpool this week after suffering a muscle problem on England duty, while young centre-back Rhys Williams was left out of the under-21 squad to face Albania because of a hip problem.

And Mohamed Salah is set to miss Liverpool's next three games after returning a second positive coronavirus test in Wednesday.

There was at least some good news for Klopp on Wednesday as Andy Robertson played the full 90 minutes in Scotland's defeat to Israel after suffering a hamstring problem at the weekend.

Owen believes Liverpool's squad is strong enough to cope with the growing injury list – but insists the big games will be the true test of whether they can still have a successful season.

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“It’s when you get really tested," said Owen on talkSPORT.

"Because in some games, if you’re in a good team that are better than the rest, you can carry one or two players that aren’t quite at it.

“But it’s when you get into the quarter-finals of the Champions League, it’s when you play Manchester City at Anfield, things like that, then you can’t have any passengers in your team."

The former England striker says there is one player whose prolonged absence will affect the Reds not just on the pitch, but also in the tunnel before games.

“Of course, Liverpool, the whole squad is very good," said Owen. "But you’ve just got one or two players in any team, I don’t care who you are, that you look to and carry you to certain situations.

“When you’re in the tunnel before the game you look in front of you and behind you and think, ‘right, we’ve got a chance because we’ve got him in our team’. Van Dijk in particular is one of them."

Van Dijk is forecast to miss the rest of the season following surgery on an ACL injury – but Owen is hopeful he can return for the business end of the campaign.

“He’s a huge miss, but hey, who’s to say he won’t be back for those big games at the end of the season?" he said.

“A cruciate ligament injury is sort of five to six months if everything goes perfectly. So you never know. It’s a huge blow.”

Owen predicted a wide open title race given Liverpool's injury problems.

He said: "I have no doubts if these players were fit then Liverpool are the best team in the land. I think they would win the Premier League.

“This has now thrown it up in the air a little bit."

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