Retaining title would be Liverpool's greatest triumph: Neil Humphreys
Covid-19 crisis, injuries ensure toughest campaign for the defending champions
Mohamed Salah tested positive for Covid-19 a day after his Liverpool teammate Joe Gomez had knee surgery.
Gomez had earlier collapsed in an England training session organised by Gareth Southgate, who caught the virus last month.
Welcome to the latest chapter of the omnipresent crisis and another day in the surreal life of Juergen Klopp.
As greed forces the game to persist with its myriad of tournaments, friendlies and TV obligations, players continue to fall like autumnal leaves.
So Klopp faces another crisis. His natural state of being is crisis. There is no variety in his daily existence beyond differing degrees of crisis.
If last season's title was a miracle, then this season's defence holds the promise of being an even greater achievement because Klopp is being set up to fail.
He has no Kop, no 12th man, no central defence, no global superstar and nothing approaching consistency as half a side have caught Covid-19 already.
To compound the absurdity of his current situation, to really underscore the madness, the other half of his makeshift defensive partnership, Gomez, hit the turf without even being tackled.
The exhausted defender's knee gave way as he prepared for a meaningless England friendly that no one cared for outside the English Football Association, where desperate executives sought to fulfil TV obligations.
Gomez paid the price. He'll miss most of the season as he recovers from a damaged knee tendon - an injury that was entirely avoidable.
Klopp has already registered his displeasure at weary footballers being dragged from their club bubbles to participate in pointless contests. Competitive football inside empty stadiums was already strange.
But futile football, games with little importance in the current climate, seem almost vulgar, stripping away any noble pretence to reveal them for what they really are - empty money-making exercises.
And these exercises are becoming dangerous now. Sending players in and out of countries with lockdown measures in place feels obscene.
Naturally, all elite clubs are at greater risk as players participate in more international competitions. But the city of Liverpool, in particular, has struggled with the coronavirus' devastating impact.
The death toll and infection rates have been among the highest in Britain for months, ensuring that the sheltered Reds were not immune to exposure.
Salah has become the fifth Liverpool player to be sidelined with Covid-19, joining Thiago Alcantara, Sadio Mane, Kostas Tsimikas and Xherdan Shaqiri since the start of the campaign.
Nine months ago, such a sentence seemed preposterous. Today, the thought of five Reds contracting a virus barely warrants a shrug. Others are likely to follow.
Even the timing of Salah's positive test was cruel. With eight goals, the Egyptian was the English Premier League's joint-leading scorer and one of the few Reds to come close to emulating the heady heights of last season.
While fatigue and fixture overload threatened to consume others, Salah was a fizzing beacon of consistency. Now, he'll miss Liverpool's contest against table-topping Leicester City next Monday morning (Singapore time).
The best player sheltering from the biggest stage sums up the hypocrisy of the game's reluctance to bend to the relentless demands of the coronavirus.
So much of this should have been avoided.
Covid-19 isn't to blame for Jordan Pickford's thuggish lunge at Virgil van Dijk's knee or Klopp's decision not to replace Dejan Lovren.
But Gomez collapsed alone on a training pitch. Trent Alexander-Arnold went down unchallenged against Manchester City, clutching his calf. Muscle injuries are as commonplace as daft VAR (video assistant referee) decisions.
And yet, the unwillingness to compromise has left even Southgate looking sheepish. The England manager's reluctance to discuss his conversation with Klopp concerning Gomez's injury said everything. The Three Lions are playing unnecessary games with no concessions being made and Southgate knows it.
Karma is practically conspiring against Klopp. As he lost another two players, he learned that Liverpool must visit Brighton & Hove Albion - one of the furthest away days for the Reds - on Nov 28 at 12.30pm (UK time).
Having demanded a stop to lunchtime kick-offs on Saturdays, he must prepare for one just three days after Liverpool's Champions League tie against Atalanta.
Last season, the imperious Reds swaggered towards the finish line. This time, they'll be lucky to get there intact, let alone ahead of the rest.
Football's grim determination to see every fixture through to the bitter end will lead to a rise in soft-tissue injuries and Covid-19 cases and a fall in quality.
As a consequence, Liverpool will never face more obstacles in a single season.
And if they retain the title, they'll never surpass the achievement either.