Jose Mourinho did his best to play down Liverpool’s injury crisis before Tottenham made the trip to Anfield for their top of the table showdown on Wednesday.
After listing nine of Liverpool ‘s senior players who he expected to come up against, the Spurs boss eventually conceded the 10th, Virgil van Dijk, would be a big loss to Liverpool.
One man Mourinho failed to mention, though, was Liverpool’s latest unlikely hero, Curtis Jones.
Jurgen Klopp has been forced to juggle his squad relentlessly to keep his side on track so far this season.
And were it not for Liverpool’s rotten luck with injuries, Jones may well still be playing no more than a bit-part role.
Yet not only has the 19-year-old stepped in for the likes of Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho while he deputises in defence, but the teenager has become one of Liverpool’s most important players in recent matches.
Against Spurs he was not just one of the Reds’ best performers, but arguably the standout player in the whole match.
Quite some feat when you consider the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were also on the field, along with the wealth of world class talent at Liverpool’s disposal.
More so when you factor in he was up against a midfield whom Spurs have spent millions acquiring.
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It’s been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.
Virgil van Dijk’s season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson’s injury worries too.
But there’s no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.
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While Jones won’t be able to officially claim an assist for Liverpool’s opener, it was his darting run which caused Tottenham problems, before the ball eventually fell at Mo Salah’s feet and then nestled in the night via the post and a generous deflection.
But it was his all-round play which set Jones apart from the rest in a fiercely-contested battle between two of the league’s heavyweights.
Pundit and former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch said after the match: “I think that’s the best game I’ve seen him play, he was everywhere.”
Jones’s development has no doubt been helped by playing regularly alongside Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum, the former of whom was credited by Crouch for influencing his young teammate.
What did you make of Jones’s performance vs Tottenham? Have your say below.
But it speaks volumes about how well Jones has settled in to the Liverpool team that his performance was of little surprise to his boss, who felt it wasn’t necessary to go overboard on praise for a display which is now what is expected of him.
Asked about the performance of his youngsters after the match, Klopp waxed lyrical about stand-in defender Rhys Williams, before adding: “And Curtis is a top, top-class player.”
With so many top stars still due to come back, it looked inevitable Jones’s involvement would probably reduce in the months to come.
Though based on his latest display, Jones will be one of the names Klopp will be keen to leave on his teamsheet.
A name Mourinho will no doubt remember now.