Wijnaldum ready for Fabinho role
Georginio Wijnaldum described the ankle injury sustained by Fabinho against Napoli as "a big blow' for Liverpool but vowed to be the perfect stand-in in a more defensive-midfield role.
The Netherlands international came off the bench to replace Fabinho in Wednesday's Champions League contest at Anfield in an indication he may fill the void despite having played a more advanced role for Jurgen Klopp's side this term.
But Wijnaldum appreciates the likely loss of Fabinho for a number of games, as Liverpool await clarity on the severity of the injury, comes as a serious setback to the reigning European champions and Premier League leaders.
"It's a big blow for the whole team, of course, and for him as a player," he said. "It's a situation you've got to deal with. Over the years we've had a few blows with injury and we just have to show that we can deal with the situation."
Fabinho has a crucial holding role to play at the hub of Liverpool's team, and it perhaps goes against Wijnaldum's attacking instincts to occupy that position. However, he has done so studiously in the past, and when asked about the challenge of taking over from Fabinho, there was a twinkle in the eye of the Dutchman.
"I played there last season. Do you think I'm ready?" he told reporters at Anfield. "We just have to show that it doesn't affect us."
The exit of Fabinho after 18 minutes was swiftly followed by Dries Mertens firing Napoli in front with a terrific finish across goal from a tight angle, his strike so impressive it was hard to fault Alisson.
Dejan Lovren headed an equaliser midway through the second half, but it was not Liverpool's night. Klopp's charges were oddly pedestrian at times, and the 1-1 draw means they head to Salzburg for their final Champions League Group E match on December 10 as leaders, but still probably needing a point to make sure of a last-16 place. Wijnaldum acknowledged it was a "frustrating" position, given Liverpool knew a win over Napoli would have made sure of their qualification and taken any edge off the Salzburg game.
"Of course you want it to finish early, but this is the situation. It comes to the last game," Wijnaldum said. "There's nothing we can change about it anymore so what we have to do is to deal with this situation and try to get a good result."
There was at least some relief in the Liverpool camp when linchpin defender Virgil van Dijk was able to shake off a blow to the ribs, which came from Mertens in the lead-up to Napoli's goal. The sight of Van Dijk receiving treatment on the pitch caused anxiety in the stands and on the pitch too.
"Everyone was worried," Wijnaldum said. "I think he is [fine] because he finished the game. With Fabinho it's difficult to say because he went off."