By Noel Whelan

29th Feb, 2020 | 12:19pm

'Huge blow' - Exclusive: Whelan reacts as Liverpool today rule out 'top man' v Watford

The absence of Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson for today’s Premier League clash against Watford is a “huge blow”.

That is according to ex-Premier League striker Noel Whelan, speaking exclusively to Football Insider about the 29-year-old midfielder ruled out by the club this morning along with James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri.

Henderson has been in the form of his life in recent months before breaking down with a hamstring injury last week in Liverpool’s Champions League away defeat to Atletico Madrid.

The England international was an observer at Anfield on Monday as Liverpool came from behind to beat West Ham 3-2 and is now set for another Premier League match on the sidelines.

Whelan told Football Insider: “Losing your captain when he is playing so well is a huge blow, even for a team with Liverpool’s wealth of midfield options.

“Henderson may not be technically the most accomplished player, and I’ve said that a few times, but he gives you a huge amount in terms of leadership, commitment, fight and other things.

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“Liverpool should have enough to comfortably beat Watford without Henderson but he’s been their top man recently and you know Jurgen Klopp would love to have him available.”

Henderson now faces a battle to be fit for the crucial European second-leg against Atletico as well as domestic clashes against Chelsea in the FA Cup and Bournemouth in the Premier League.

He is one of the favourites for the Premier League player of the year award along with teammates Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk as well as Man City’s Kevin de Bruyne.

In other Liverpool news, it can be REVEALED that the club are opening talks on a £50million deal including bonuses for defender.