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Dublin: 4°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Fabinho prepared to fill in at centre-back after becoming a regular for Liverpool

The Brazilian was deployed at the heart of the Reds defence in last weekend’s win over Brighton due to injuries.

Heading the ball away against Brighton.
Heading the ball away against Brighton.
Image: Gareth Fuller

FABINHO ADMITS HE knew he may be required to fill-in at centre-back for Liverpool and so began training in that position several weeks ago.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has been left short of defenders in recent weeks following injuries suffered by Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

That led to midfielder Fabinho being asked to play at centre-back alongside Dejan Lovren for the FA Cup tie at Wolves at the start of January.

Though the Merseysiders would suffer a 2-1 defeat at Molineux, an injury picked up by Lovren meant Fabinho retained his place at the back for their next Premier League game against Brighton.

Playing alongside Virgil van Dijk, the former Monaco man helped Liverpool keep a clean sheet in a battling 1-0 victory at the Amex Stadium, earning the praise of his manager in the process.

Fabinho admits he still has room for improvement in his new position but the transition has been helped by hard work on the training ground in preparation.

“Some weeks ago, I knew this could be an option because we had some players out injured and we only had two centre-backs available,” he told the club’s official website.

“When Dejan got injured, I knew it would be logical that I’d play in that position.

“I had some training sessions playing in that position, which helped me adapt better and pick up certain aspects, like positioning and movements you need to be natural at to play in this position. When it came to playing in a game it was a bit easier because I’d trained in the position.

I think it went well [against Wolves], I had a good understanding with Ki-Jana Hoever, the communication was good. Regarding positioning, I improved throughout the game in this aspect. I did well.

“And in the last game against Brighton, I think I played well. Playing alongside Van Dijk helped, he’s really vocal, he guided us. He helped me a lot. I had good communication with Trent [Alexander-Arnold] and also with Hendo [Jordan Henderson]; they were the players closest to me on the pitch.

“In general, I think it was a good game. In this position, which I haven’t played in a lot, I think I adapted well. There are some aspects, such as positioning, that I need to improve on.

“If I were to play in this position more, I’d improve on these things, but that’s natural.”

Liverpool v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League - Group C - Anfield Fabinho and Klopp. Source: Peter Byrne

Fabinho made a slow start to life at Anfield following his £39 million move from Monaco, with manager Klopp keen to avoid rushing him into the side.

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The 25-year-old had to wait until mid-September to make his Reds debut, as a last minute substitute against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, and had only made three starts by the start of November.

However, he has been involved in Liverpool’s last nine games in all competitions, including six starts, and prior to his move to centre-back had scored his first goal for the club against Newcastle as well as registering his first assists in wins over Wolves and Manchester United.

Fabinho insists he has a good relationship with his manager despite that slow integration into the side and feels he is feeling more at home with each passing week.

“The relationship with the coach is good,” he added. “He has a different way of speaking to each player.

“He understands things about us, things we need to improve on. He’ll tell you what he wants you to do on the pitch concerning movement, so that when we’re on the pitch we understand the best options for us.

Of course, playing more and getting more minutes is going to lead to my confidence growing.

“The chemistry on the field between players has been improving, I already know what runs the forwards like to make and on many occasions when I pick up the ball in midfield, I can look at their movements and put a ball over the top to take advantage of their pace.

“With the assists, it has made me more confident; the more you play, the more natural these things become and I hope I can keep on being important for the team.

“It was really special to score my first goal. Despite my height, I don’t score a lot of headers, so it was great in that aspect as well. It was great to have scored at Anfield wearing a Liverpool shirt.

“When I scored, I went over to the part of the ground where my family were, to celebrate with them. Then I celebrated with the players – it was a really special moment. “It had been a while since I’d scored and I wanted to score again. It was great that it happened.”

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