With Liverpool crippled by injuries and Arsenal and Man United to visit Anfield next week, we take a look at whether Jurgen Klopp could make 11 changes against Exeter City.
The Reds’ 1-0 win over Stoke City on Tuesday evening represented a much-needed return to form for Klopp’s side but the victory came at a cost.
Exeter are the Reds’ next opponents, in the FA Cup third round on Friday, and it is followed by crucial home Premier League games against Arsenal and Man United.
Klopp must surely be thinking of making a number of changes against The Grecians, but he will also be aware that fielding too many youngsters could be asking for a cup shock.
How many alterations to Tuesday’s XI can he realistically make?
Goalkeeper – Rest Mignolet, bring in Bogdan
Goalkeepers suffer from tiredness the least, in fairness, but it still won’t do Simon Mignolet any harm giving him a night off.
Bogdan can fill in for the Belgian, and will hope to bounce back from his shaky last appearance away to Watford – a game he actually wasn’t that bad in after the early clanger.
Right-Back – Rest Clyne, bring in Randall
Nathaniel Clyne‘s form has suffered slightly in recent weeks, and it is no surprise when you consider how much football he has played this season.
The 24-year-old simply must be left out against Exeter, and Connor Randall has shown already in 2015/16 that he can be a reliable deputy if needed.
Centre-Backs – No options, play Toure and Lucas
There are no other centre-backs available to Klopp, so playing Toure alongside Lucas Leiva is the only option. Even Sakho were available, it’s not worth risking him for this.
Left-Back – Rest Moreno, bring in Smith
Much like Clyne, Alberto Moreno has been an almost ever-present for Liverpool this season and desperately needs to recharge his batteries.
Brad Smith has produced a few impressive cameos in recent times, and against opposition of Exeter’s calibre, he should thrive.
Midfield – Milner, Brannagan & Teixeira all to come in
Emre Can has been the Reds’ standout player in the last four or five matches, and considering the workload he has got through in Liverpool’s midfield, he needs a night off. The German has made more appearances this season than any other player.
Joe Allen was arguably man of the match against Stoke, and while he hasn’t played much football of late, it seems a needless risk playing him, when he may be needed against Arsenal and United.
James Milner was launched into an earlier-than-expected return on Tuesday, following Lovren’s injury, but a first start in almost a month will do him good.
The 30-year-old’s experience will be a good foil for youngsters Cameron Brannagan and Joao Teixeira, who both shone against Bournemouth in the League Cup earlier this season.
Attack – Rest Firmino & Lallana, start Benteke, Kent and Ibe
Coutinho’s injury rules him out of the Exeter game, but even if the Brazilian was fit, he would likely have been rested anyway.
The return of highly-rated youngster Ryan Kent has caused some excitement, with Klopp ending the Englishman’s loan spell at Coventry City because he wanted him back at Liverpool.
The 19-year-old produced some eye-catching performances in pre-season, and if reports are to be believed, he will make a surprise Reds debut on Friday evening. He is definitely one to watch.
In truth, it is almost impossible for Klopp to alter his entire team from Tuesday’s win over Stoke, purely because of this current injury crisis.
Toure and Lucas look like they have to be the Reds’ centre-back pairing, as was the case for much of proceedings at the Britannia Stadium, but otherwise the German can make alterations in every other position.
It certainly won’t be a strong side by any means, with Randall, Smith, Brannagan, Teixeira and Kent all still unproven, and they will have to play well to overcome Exeter.
This is a risk Klopp has to take, though, if his side are to be fresh enough to thrive against both Arsenal and United.
Possible LFC starting XI vs. Exeter City: Bogdan, Randall, Toure, Lucas, Smith, Milner, Brannagan, Teixeira, Ibe, Kent, Benteke.
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