Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has defended his under-fire defender Dejan Lovren after their unbeaten Premier League run came to a screeching halt at Watford.
The Croatian centre-back was making his first top-flight start since December, with many blaming the 30-year old for the league leaders' 3-0 defeat at Vicarage Road.
Liverpool had gone 44-games without defeat in the Premier League before Saturday, with the loss just the second time in 66-games that Klopp's side had lost in the top flight.
Lovren started both games.
Speaking after the defeat to Watford, Lovren admitted the squad felt "a little bit ashamed", but his manager has leapt to his defence.
Ahead of Tuesday's FA Cup 5th round trip to Chelsea, Klopp insisted Lovren remains an "outstanding centre-half".
"3-0! 3-0! THREE...! NIL...!" 😲
All the sights & sounds from a special, special night at The Vic in Audio Visual... 📸🎙 pic.twitter.com/6jaGPJZHPt
— Watford Football Club 💙 (@WatfordFC) March 1, 2020
The Reds boss claimed Lovren is not the only man to have struggled against the heft of Watford striker Troy Deeney, "It was a massive challenge for Dejan [Lovren] to play against Troy Deeney; so many other centre-halves in the world would struggle in these specific situations.
"Joe [Gomez] had problems in similar situations before that everybody probably forgets in that moment, that’s how it is.
"But losing the first ball is never the problem in these situations because Troy cannot score from there – where he picks up the balls from [Ben] Foster or whatever. It’s all about the formation around that, picking him up.
"I don’t remember a lot of situations where they then had immediately a chance after that. It was the fight for the throw-in, that’s one situation but we could have avoided that goal in two other situations on top of that."
Gomez missed Saturday's game through a minor fitness issue, while Joel Matip was on the Liverpool bench.
Klopp didn't reveal what complexion his centre-half partnership would be at Stamford Bridge, but says dips in form are all part and parcel of being a professional footballer, "Both Dejan and Joel [Matip] played for us in this position sensational games.
"But like everybody in life, you need to be healthy. Then you have to get fit and when you are fit you need rhythm.
"That’s the most difficult thing to get in professional football because if you are out you have sessions but you don’t play that often.
"He’s an outstanding centre-half.
"If you can tell me one player on Saturday who played his normal level, I would be really surprised. It’s not because two boys played who didn’t play a week or two before, it’s absolutely nothing to do [with that]."
It's been claimed that Liverpool's recent lull has been as a result of their winter break, with defeat at Watford coming not long after their Champions League defeat at Atletico Madrid.
But Klopp doesn't feel the break has pierced their invincibility cloak, "Look, there are so many explanations for the defeat and it’s nice that finally you have some questions because it was probably boring over the time to always speak about the same thing!
"But I cannot now deliver just interesting answers. It’s not about the rhythm, it’s not about that. We didn’t play well, that’s the truth and Watford hurt us in moments and situations where we are usually much better."