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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Dejan Lovren happy to put his dark days behind him to establish himself in Liverpool's backline

The Croatian will be a key part of his side's backline at Manchester United on Saturday, just months after being criticised by his manager and dealing with fright of thieves targeting family home.

Dejan Lovren has become an integral part of the Liverpool defence after re-finding his form. Carl Recine / Reuters
Dejan Lovren has become an integral part of the Liverpool defence after re-finding his form. Carl Recine / Reuters

It amounted to a 10-day spell Dejan Lovren would happily forget. He was substituted after half an hour in the 4-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on October 22, with Jurgen Klopp appearing to suggest that he could have done better than his struggling defender, who had been at fault for two goals.

He left Anfield after the 3-0 win over Maribor on November 1 with different worries. He discovered thieves had targeted his house during the match.

“Unfortunately my wife and two kids were in,” the Croatian said. “It was horrific.” It was a time when he worried about their safety while others questioned if he had a future on Merseyside.

The subsequent four months amount to a proof of character as well as Klopp’s faith in a defender many thought would be surplus to requirements when Liverpool spent £75 million (Dh382.1m) on Virgil van Dijk in January.

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Now the in-form Lovren, rather than Joel Matip, is the favourite to partner the world’s most expensive centre-back at Old Trafford tomorrow for their match at Manchester United.

“It is always good to hear some positive things,” the former Southampton player said. “I think we did quite well, me and him in the last couple of games when we played, we understood each other quite well and hopefully we can do it also in the future.

"I responded quite well even with some different things around my life, burglars and things like that, so it wasn’t easy for me.”

Rewind to his unpleasant autumn and Lovren makes valid points. He does not spare himself from criticism, especially about his troubles against Tottenham at Wembley Stadium, while illustrating that Liverpool’s attacking style of football can leave him exposed while counterparts at other clubs may be afforded more cover.

"I don’t know one player who doesn’t make a mistake, especially a defender and especially how we play at Liverpool,” Lovren said. “We play really high offensive football and sometimes you are one against one against top strikers and top strikers need just one chance from 10.

"If they score then they will blame you or someone else. I had many times these wrong decisions that I made. Sometimes I can accept it; sometimes not.”

He also underlined that, amid the rush to judgment, most outsiders are only in possession of some of the facts and the personal aspect is often overlooked. His troubles date back to last summer, when he feared he had been gassed by burglars during a summer holiday in his native Croatia and when he was worried his children could have been kidnapped.

On the night of the Maribor game, break-ins were attempted at Lovren’s house and that of teammate Sadio Mane, who lives nearby: CCTV footage emerged of would-be thieves trying to break down a patio door to gain entry.

“It is not easy because we are also humans and everyone has problems; I don’t know who hasn’t had some,” added the 28-year-old.

“I am giving my best to have a quiet life but sometimes it doesn’t depend on myself because people just want to come into my home and steal some things, even though I have nothing in my home.”

A quiet life seems unlikely in the hostile atmosphere of Old Trafford. Lovren excelled against Romelu Lukaku in October’s goalless stalemate at Anfield, but that was notable for Jose Mourinho’s defensive tactics. Lovren argued that, unlike Manchester United, Liverpool will not take such a negative approach.

“For them it will be maybe a point [will be] good but for us, we never play for a point. We will play like we play every day, attacking football,” he said. “Mourinho has his own plans but we play how we hope will beat them Let’s enjoy.”

And enjoyment is something that, after troubled times, he has found again.