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Nat Phillips up for challenge of securing long-term defensive role for Liverpool

Liverpool v West Ham United – Premier League – Anfield
(Image credit: Peter Powell)

Liverpool defender Nat Phillips will hope he has done enough to persuade manager Jurgen Klopp he does not need to dip into the January transfer market.

Klopp currently has no fit senior centre-backs, with Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez long-term absentees due to serious knee injuries and Joel Matip sidelined for three weeks with a groin problem.

Fabinho has played the majority of his games covering in central defence with Phillips and 19-year-old rookie Rhys Williams has filled in where required.

Phillips is looking to ad to his three Premier League appearances so far

Phillips is looking to add to his three Premier League appearances so far (Peter Powell/PA)

Prior to this season Phillips’ only first-team experience was in the FA Cup third-round victory over Everton a year ago – a match for which he was recalled from a loan spell with Stuttgart and then sent back to Germany soon after.

He made his Premier League debut against West Ham on October 31 and recorded his first clean sheet on his third appearance, at Newcastle on Wednesday.

With Van Djk and Gomez likely to play little or no part in the current campaign and Matip continuing to pick up niggling injuries, there have been calls for Klopp to bolster his defence now the window has opened.

Phillips, however, hopes he can offer a solution.

“That’s what I want to be doing: getting out on the pitch and playing games,” he told liverpoolfc.com.

“It (Newcastle) was a tough game for myself, very physical, they didn’t make it easy for me up there.

“There’s plenty for me to work on, I’ll look back on the game and see what areas I need to improve on. But a clean sheet isn’t too bad.

“It’s definitely challenged me. I wouldn’t say I’ve felt out of my depth. The more games I’ve played, the more I’m getting used to it, but each game provides a different challenge.

“With each game I’ve just got to try to gather experiences from them and work on the things I need to get better at, learn from each game and hopefully get the momentum.”

The 23-year-old will hope to retain his place for Monday’s trip to Southampton.

He was picked ahead of teenager Williams, who had been the preferred replacement for Matip on the last two occasions he was injured, for Wednesday’s goalless draw at Newcastle.

However, former Reds midfielder Danny Murphy believes he was not convincing enough to warrant an extended run.

“I think he struggled a bit at times. He got the booking in the second half when he was out of position a couple of times,” Murphy told Malaysia’s Astro SuperSport channel.

“He looked a bit nervy. I think in the forthcoming games we’ll probably see a change there. I’d be surprised if he keeps his place, to be honest.

“I know he gives that aerial presence, but depending on who you play against, I don’t think you can only be in the team for that, you need a little bit more.

“He has played Rhys Williams, he’s played Jordan Henderson there, we’ll have to wait and see.”