By Sean Hayes

In Liverpool’s comfortable victory over Derby County in the third round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday night they picked up something that has become a collector’s item – a clean sheet.

Their 3-0 win over the Championship side confirmed their progression to the next round and although it is the second time they have shut their opponents out in the competition this season, it is a different story in the Premier League.

The Reds have conceded in all five of their league matches so far this season – here are three things that may have contributed to their early defensive problems.

Inconsistent pairings

It has been a good start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men, as they have lost just once and seem to be firing on all cylinders in attack.

However, they have conceded in all of their last seven league fixtures, with their last clean sheet in the competition coming in a 2-0 home win over Watford back in May.

The Hornets are the only side outside the bottom four to concede more than the Merseyside club this year, as they have leaked eight goals.

This could be down to the inconsistency in their centre-back pairings, as they have had three different combinations in just five games.

Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren were the first partnership of the season, but after letting in five goals in just two games against Arsenal and Burnley the Estonian centre-half was dropped.

Joel Matip has taken Klavan’s place since and they have conceded three times in the three games he has featured.

Lovren had a shaky start to life as a Liverpool player after his move from Southampton as he struggled to show the form which earned him a move to Anfield.

If he can keep fit and consolidate his partnership with 25-year-old Matip, which looks to be their best option, then their first clean sheet could be right around the corner.

Left-back in the changing rooms

A lot of criticism has been fired at Alberto Moreno since the backend of last season, particularly following his performance in the Europa League final, and it is clear that Klopp sees him as a defensive liability.

So much so that James Milner, a midfielder by trade, has stepped in to replace the Spaniard since his poor performance at the Emirates Stadium in a game which the visitors conceded three times.

Although the England international has been solid, it is clear to see that he is out of position and he would bring more to the team playing within the midfield.

Options at full-back are at a premium though, as John Flanagan is on loan at Burnley and Joe Gomez has suffered another injury which has hampered his Liverpool career.

The former Charlton defender impressed in his five appearances under Brendan Rodgers in 2015 where he played across the back four, before a season-ending knee injury stopped him in his tracks with an Achilles problem keeping him out of action this year.

With the position a clear issue for the club, will Klopp regret not bringing in a left-back in the summer transfer window?

Who’s number one?

Another player who has been under increasing pressure from fans is Simon Mignolet, following some unconvincing performances last season.

The Belgian shot-stopper looked set to be demoted to the bench following the signing of Lorus Karius, before the former Mainz keeper suffered a hand injury in pre-season.

He made his debut in the 3-0 win over Derby on Tuesday evening after a full recovery and could be set for long run in the starting line-up.

Karius was considered second best in the Bundesliga to none other than Manuel Neuer, arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, and comes highly-rated from Germany.

Maybe he is the missing piece to the defensive jigsaw at Liverpool?

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