Jordan Henderson Talks CB Role; 'Fingers Crossed' over Virgil van Dijk Fitness

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2019

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 18:  Jordan Herderson of Liverpool in action during the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar Semi-final match between Monterrey and Liverpool FC at Khalifa International  Stadium on December 18, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson has discussed the "different" challenge he faced playing centre-back in the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final on Wednesday.

With star defender Virgil van Dijk ruled out of the contest because of illness, the Reds only had one fit senior centre-back available in Joe Gomez, with Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip also absent.

Henderson stepped in to play alongside Gomez, and while Liverpool were not as secure as has come to be expected, he performed admirably in the 2-1 win over Monterrey.

The midfielder said he'd be happy to fulfil the role again in Saturday's final, although he's hoping Van Dijk is available to play, per John Cross of the Daily Mirror:

"It was different! I had fantastic players around me and they helped me out. When you have that quality around you, it makes it a little bit easier. It was different to anything that I have been used to.

"I've played at full-back but I've never played there before. I just tried to do my best for the team and thankfully we got the win in the end.

"I don't know what will happen with Virgil on Saturday. Fingers crossed he will be OK. Of course, if the manager needed me to go there again, I would do it. It is anything to help the team."

Liverpool were far from their best in the semi-final, and they needed a last-gasp goal from Roberto Firmino to book a spot in the final:

On Saturday, the Reds will face South American champions Flamengo as they seek to secure the trophy. Given the superior quality the Brazilian outfit have in attack, the match is set to be a much more challenging one for whoever plays at the back.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp provided an update on Van Dijk's condition after the semi-final, per Dominic King of the Daily Mail:

Dominic King @DominicKing_DM

Jรผrgen Klopp on Virgil van Dijk absence: โ€œIt was an easy decision. No training possible this morning. It was difficult for Hendo to deal with but he did well. I do not know how quickly Virgil will recover.โ€

Per Ian Doyle of the Liverpool Echo, the Netherlands international was involved in training on the eve of the encounter:

Ian Doyle @IanDoyleSport

Virgil van Dijk has come out for training with #LFC ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup final. A positive sign ahead of tomorrowโ€™s game ๐Ÿ”ด

Stepping in for Van Dijk would be a challenge for any player in world football, never mind one who has barely played in defence before.

With that in mind, Caoimhe O'Neill of the Liverpool Echo thinks Henderson did a creditable job as a defender:

Caoimhe O'Neill @CaoimheSport

Thought Jordan Henderson played really well especially filling in for the man mountain Van Dijk at centre-half too. Adam Lallana done a decent impression of a holding midfielder as well.

However, BBC's South American football expert Tim Vickery thinks the absence of Van Dijk was noticeable during the game:

Tim Vickery @Tim_Vickery

Henderson very uncomfotable at cb. What a game for showing the value of Van Dijk. Solves so many problems for his team

Flamengo's main strength is in their attacking play. Their star man in the Copa Libertadores was Gabriel Barbosa, who is a razor-sharp striker with clinical finishing quality; he's set to be supported by the creative talents of Giorgian De Arrascaeta, Bruno Henrique and Everton Ribeiro.

As much as Henderson would turn in a determined performance if he was used at the heart of the Reds defence, Liverpool's chances of capping their memorable 2019 with more silverware would be significantly enhanced if Van Dijk was available.ย ย