Wednesday 18 September 2019

David Kelly: 'Kelleher's Liverpool fate may now rely on the misfortune of others as Adrian fitness hangs in balance'

Caoimhin Kelleher in action for the Liverpool U-21s, now on the cusp of a big breakthrough
Caoimhin Kelleher in action for the Liverpool U-21s, now on the cusp of a big breakthrough
David Kelly

David Kelly

If all else fails, perhaps Liverpool could just pitch Virgil van Dijk in between the sticks?

Last April, Liverpool's official social media wondered jokingly was there anything the serene Dutchman couldn't do when they posted a shot of him pulling off a full-length save in training.

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Back then, the club's supporters were more anxious that the defender could prove his ability to play rather than his agility to save after limping off with an ankle injury against Spurs.

He did and Liverpool marched irrepressibly towards a Champions League success and, so nearly, the domestic crowning glory.

Only a week into the new season, however, and there are fresh fears about Liverpool's defence which, although not as pronounced as those in evidence before Van Dijk's arrival, are again causing jitters on Merseyside.

A mini-crisis in goal has hardly helped to quell the nerves. Losing one goalkeeper to an innocuous injury is one thing. Losing two? You know the rest.

With Allison and Adrian injured within days, Melwood has suddenly been transformed into a M*A*S*H for Liverpool netminders; notional standby Caoimhin Kelleher, from Cork, is only just returning from a wrist problem.

Klopp will have spent 24 hours at the training ground acting like a distracted and disturbed Captain Hawkeye before determining who can fill the void against Southampton today.

Health

Clearly, being a Liverpool goalkeeper is bad for your health these days.

There is still some hope that the swelling on Adrian's ankle may have calmed sufficiently for him to be patched up and pumped with enough painkillers to get through the afternoon in one piece.

Privately, a nervy Liverpool and Klopp would prefer this option and that could mean bad news for Kelleher after the hasty recruitment of a journeyman, Andy Lonergan, clouded the picture.

Klopp spent a portion of yesterday monitoring the fitness of the former Ringmahon Rangers man and indicated yesterday that he remained a live option should Adrian's fitness fail him.

That may indeed have been a possibility; but Klopp was never going to compound the risk of plunging an untested, young goalkeeper into the fray by doing so after he had recovered from an injury affecting the most vital tool of his trade.

Presuming Adrian's optimism has been accepted willingly by his grateful manager, it would have been quite the deflating day as Kelleher was again omitted from Mick McCarthy's Irish squad.

Having himself risked an absence of suitable cover for Darren Randolph in the summer, by allowing Kelleher to play in the Toulon Tournament, McCarthy again decided against naming the Cork man.

"He's not going to get ahead of the two that I've got," said McCarthy, referring to regular number one Darren Randolph and Keiren Westwood.

"And Mark Travers did well when he came in. Apparently he could be involved with Liverpool now.

"Does that change it? We'll see how he plays.

"Equally, he's another one that's guaranteed to play with Stephen Kenny's U-21s unless there's an injury. Switzerland would be a big game to make a debut."

For McCarthy and Switzerland, so too Klopp and Southampton.

Even if Kelleher is not involved on the English south coast today, McCarthy and his brains trust will be hoping that Shane Long and Michael Obafemi can contribute in some way to exploiting potential weaknesses in the Liverpool defence.

Up-and-coming striker Obafemi returned from his latest troublesome hamstring complaint against Burnley last week although, like Long, he may miss out; yesterday's (Irish)man Nathan Redmond is likely to keep his place with former 'Pool striker Danny Ings.

Klopp will be anxious that his goalkeeping problems don't infect the rest of his squad.

Large swathes of space between the defence and midfield lines, on either side of the pitch, were regularly exploited by both Norwich - even in the 40 minutes Becker was fit - and Chelsea in the last eight days.

Klopp will desperately hope that his defence can present a more familiar face, even in the unlikely event their goalkeeper isn't one.

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