Liverpool defensive crisis eased by Joel Matip return to full training

LIVERPOOL, England -- Liverpool's centre-back concerns have been eased after Jurgen Klopp said Joel Matip had returned to full training.

On Thursday, sources told ESPN FC that Liverpool had no plans to recruit a central defender in January because they believe midfielder Fabinho can operate adequately in the position.

The Brazil international played in the role in the FA Cup defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.

Dejan Lovren became the latest Liverpool centre-back to pick up an injury when he came off after five minutes of the third-round tie, clutching his left hamstring.

Joe Gomez remains still sidelined with a lower leg fracture, but Matip took part in team training on Thursday for the first time since fracturing his collarbone against Paris Saint-Germain last month.

"Joel trained yesterday first time with the team, which is really good, but we have to see," Klopp told a news conference on Friday. "We have to decide day-by-day how he is doing. He feels good, and that's good for us.

"Hendo [Jordan Henderson] will train today, first time, and we will see what that means exactly. Adam [Lallana] is out. Dejan out. Joe, of course, out. All are improving, [but] I know they are not available.

"I don't know [when Lovren is back]. It's not that serious. It's a muscle thing and I would expect him back maybe after Crystal Palace -- I'm not sure. We have to see."

Virgil van Dijk sat out the game at Wolves but is set to return for Saturday's trip to Brighton.

Depending on Matip's fitness, Fabinho, normally a defensive midfielder, could play at centre-back as the Premier League leaders look to respond to back-to-back defeats.

"If Fabinho has to play as a centre-half, we are not sure, he has played it before, but of course we do that on the training pitch," Klopp said.

"You have helpful players around, one player usually can't decide a game -- up front it happens from time to time -- but in defence you need the boys around you. We speak in the week, but try to not make it more complicated than it is."

Liverpool's elimination from the FA Cup means they have an 11-day gap between their games against Crystal Palace and Leicester, while title rivals Manchester City and Tottenham play fourth-round ties.

Klopp said he welcomed the extra training time the break would allow, but admitted his preference would have been for Liverpool to still be in the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.

"If you have the full squad together it's massive, it's really good," he said of the lighter schedule. "That's my preferred rhythm, to be honest.

"I would love to still be in these competitions, but we are not. Now we have to make the best of the time we have and get as many points as possible."