Virgil van Dijk's absence a new challenge for Liverpool: Buxton
Liverpool have poor win ratio in his absence, with Gomez-Matip an untried duo
By accident as much as design, Liverpool remain destined to suffer for their success.
A roller coaster of exhilarating highs and crushing lows preceded their first English Premier League triumph in 30 years and its aftermath threatens to be little different.
Taking the scenic route has never been an option throughout Juergen Klopp's tenure.
But the Reds are now in truly uncharted territory, with Virgil van Dijk facing a prolonged spell on the sidelines following last Saturday's Merseyside Derby draw against Everton.
The Dutchman's anterior cruciate ligament injury arrives at the worst possible moment.
He has become a totemic figure that the reigning EPL champions could ill afford to lose at any stage of their season, let alone in the infancy of defending their long-awaited crown.
Van Dijk's importance for Liverpool is underlined by his rare absences.
After completing a record-breaking £75 million (S$131.6m) move from Southampton in 2018, the towering centre-back has since missed only 13 out of a potential 143 matches played.
Before the Goodison Park encounter, the 29-year-old had failed to complete just one of the previous 95 league games he started.
The 13 games he missed saw Liverpool record a paltry win ratio of 46 per cent, compared to 70 per cent in the 130 matches where he featured.
Omens for the lesser statistic improving do not appear promising ahead of Liverpool's Champions League Group D opener with Ajax Amsterdam tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Joel Matip - who went for a scan after the 2-2 draw with Everton and might miss the Ajax game - and Joe Gomez's task of replicating van Dijk's watertight qualities are unlikely to bear fruit as the two right-footed players have yet to be tested in a central pairing.
The duo have endured their fair share of injury ordeals, but it is form rather than fitness which should be Klopp's overriding concern heading to Amsterdam.
His backline has already shipped 13 goals in their opening five EPL fixtures, a figure compounded by the anomaly of a 7-2 humiliation by Aston Villa earlier this month while still boasting a defender widely regarded as the best in world football.
Put in context, that number has already surpassed their post-title comedown tally of 12 from their final seven matches last season, when they conceded 33 goals overall.
That van Dijk had contributed to such alarming figures debunks any notion that he is infallible, but his injury will test Klopp's improvisation.
Experimenting with the odd couple combination of Matip and Gomez appears a logical starting point, although it will almost certainly not be the one which the Liverpool manager settles on. Especially with more adept alternatives elsewhere in his squad.
Fabinho's exemplary cameo as an auxiliary central defender in last month's win at Chelsea, coupled with spending his formative years as a right-back, makes the midfielder a viable candidate to step into the void if the Matip-Gomez concept proves highly unworkable.
Time, however, is not on Klopp's side with an already stuttering EPL title defence set to be exacerbated by a Champions League group also containing last season's surprise quarter-finalists Atalanta and rapidly improving Midtjylland.
The German continues to be a firm believer that his players must go through hell to appreciate the magnitude of their destination when it finally lurks on the horizon.
Pain will be in plentiful supply as they adjust to life without van Dijk's calming presence.