Club Focus – Liverpool – Kelly loss a blow but Dalglish has options returning

Exciting Liverpool starlet Martin Kelly has been ruled out of action for a month following a painful hamstring injury he picked up during the defeat to relegation-threatened West Ham United last weekend. The 20-year-old defender has been in sparkling form of late and along with Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles, Kelly has shined under new boss Kenny Dalglish.

The young Englishman was given a chance by former manager Roy Hodgson earlier in the season, mainly in the Europa League. But it is only under Dalglish that Kelly has become a regular in the first-team. The versatile Merseyside-born player is able to slot in at the heart of the defence, however he has mainly been used as a right-back in recent weeks. Liverpool’s usual right-sided defender Glen Johnson has been used on the opposite flank in order to accommodate for the impressive Kelly.

Not only has Kelly looked comfortable and competent at the back, but his rampaging runs down the right wing have also surprised supporters who realise the club have unearthed a gem. Like Johnson, Kelly is a real handful for opposition defenders when he bombs down the touchline and in recent games against Sparta Prague and West Ham, where he was replaced due to injury on both occasions, the talented defender appeared to be Liverpool’s best attacking outlet.

And based on his excellent displays over the last couple of months, Kelly must surely be rated as one of England’s brightest talents alongside the likes of Blackburn’s Phil Jones, Manchester United’s Chris Smalling and Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs, to name but a few. The Reds youngster understandably needs more experience and is by no means the finished article just yet. However, he is among a bright crop of young talent making a name for themselves in the top-flight.

With an impressive run of games under his belt and some solid Premier League experience Kelly will be looking to push on and reclaim his spot in the starting line-up when he returns in a month’s time. Seeing as he has been a regular under Dalglish, Liverpool may miss him and his creativity, particularly with key games against Manchester United and Braga to come over the next few weeks. Nonetheless, the Reds do have other defensive options and should be able to cope without Kelly.

One player who could help soften the blow of Kelly’s absence is Fabio Aurelio. The adventurous Brazilian full-back could return to action for the crunch clash against arch-rivals Manchester United, meaning Johnson would then revert back to right-back. Danish centre-back Daniel Agger is also in line to return at the back, while the club are hopeful in-form Meireles will also be available. Record signing Andy Carroll could make his debut against the Red Devils, though it remains to be seen whether he will be risked.

The loss of injured youngster Kelly will come as a disappointment to Dalglish, however with four key players set to return ahead of the important game at the weekend, the manager should be relatively happy at the prospect of having a near full-strength squad to select from once again.

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