LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 10, 2016: Liverpool's Emre Can celebrates after the 2-0 victory over Manchester United during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Can and Sturridge to start? – Predicting Liverpool’s XI for crucial Villarreal second-leg

We take a look at how Jurgen Klopp could line up his Liverpool side for the make-or-break semi-final second-leg against Villarreal.

Anfield hosts another huge European night on Thursday as the Reds seek to overturn the first-leg deficit to keep their dreams of Europa League glory – and a place in next season’s Champions League – alive.

Trailing by a narrow one-goal margin, the pressure is on Klopp’s men to reverse the damage done in Spain in order to sink the Yellow Submarine, and the power of Anfield will be needed once more as Liverpool attempt another historic comeback for a place in the final showdown.

Klopp will return to his strongest team against Marcelino’s in-form side, but the Reds boss has some crucial selection decisions to make for the season-defining fixture.

The Team News

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, May 4, 2016: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel, Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Europa League Semi-Final 2nd Leg match against Villarreal CF. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Klopp to return to strongest XI for do-or-die tie
  • Huge decision for Reds boss over whether to start Sturridge
  • Emre Can returns to squad – could make surprise start
  • Henderson improving but still a way off from returning to action
  • Mignolet to return in goal after weekend rest
  • Toure likely to replace Skrtel to partner Lovren at centre-back
  • Moreno to resume left-back duties after weekend off
  • Can’s comeback could factor in Klopp’s decision over what formation to deploy
  • Allen and Lucas also hopeful of retaining midfield places alongside Milner 
  • Lallana, Coutinho and Firmino all likely to start
  • Benteke hopeful goal-scoring impact vs. Swansea secures involvement

Liverpool’s XI vs. Villarreal

VILLRREAL, SPAIN - Thursday, April 28, 2016: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Villarreal CF's Jonathan dos Santos during the UEFA Europa League Semi-Final 1st Leg match at Estadio El Madrigal. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp is set to welcome back his fresh first choice players, but the German has some big calls to make with formation and personnel.

With his side needing goals – and assessing “you cannot go into this game and say ‘we’ll see what happens’, then react” – the Reds boss could name his strongest team from the very start in his preferred 4-2-3-1 shape, with a greater attacking threat required.

Sturridge can therefore lead the Reds’ strongest attack, aided by a supporting cast of Lallana, Coutinho and Firmino, with Emre Can coming straight back into his midfield role alongside Milner.

With Mignolet, Toure and Moreno coming in at the back alongside Clyne and Lovren, Liverpool could line up like this on Thursday night:

Villarreal 4-2-3-1

Picking such a team would leave little to call upon from the bench however, while also risking opening the game up at the other end for Villarreal to cause problems on the counter attack.

For that reason, as well as Can’s only recent return to fitness, and with the night also “about being patient with the right direction”, Klopp could stick with a similar team to last weeks’, holding big players back to call upon if and when required.

With the expected defensive options to start, a midfield trio of Lucas, Allen and Milner could again be used if Can is deemed not ready, with Lallana and Coutinho again operating in support of Firmino, holding Sturridge in reserve.

This approach could see Liverpool look like this come 8:05pm kick-off time:

Villarreal 4-3-3

Trailing by a goal and with time of the essence is certainly not an ideal situation, but it’s one Anfield has rescued before and must rise to do so again.

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