Jurgen Klopp given food for thought for Europa League final selection

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After a sloppy performance from the expected Europa League final starting XI resulted in a draw with Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp now has food for thought over his selection for the Sevilla showdown.

Liverpool failed to sign off at Anfield with the ideal preparation ahead of next week’s showpiece final, as the Reds stumbled to a draw against a well disciplined Chelsea side.

Doing so with a first choice XI that Klopp looks certain to pick as his starting team in a week’s time, will perhaps have provided the Reds boss with questions at a time he needs answers.

Klopp now has an interesting seven days ahead as he ponders his all-important selection.

First Choice Reds Flat vs. Chelsea

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, May 11, 2016: Liverpool players looking dejected after Chelsea's first goal during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It may be cynical to suggest, and Klopp would refute it having declared places are up for grabs over the final league games prior to the Watford win, but the Reds lined up with what is expected to start against Sevilla.

It is after all the strongest side Liverpool can name currently and the one that started the second leg against Villarreal.

But the chosen Reds, handed the chance to secure their final place, failed to take advantage of the opportunity handed, underperforming in the last Anfield league game of the season against Gus Hiddink’s side.

Liverpool started brightly, with the usual attacking quartet lively, but after failing to make the breakthrough and allowing Chelsea to play their way into the game, caution took over with a tentative display ensuing.

A lack of forward movement showed this after a positive start, with Daniel Sturridge spending more time acting a play-maker than play-finisher, and a lack of runners into danger areas beyond the striker contributed to a stale attack.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, May 11, 2016: Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge in action against Chelsea's Gary Cahill during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And Liverpool’s natural wariness was best summed up in Eden Hazard’s brilliant opening goal, with the Belgian able to dance past a number of non-challenges with ease before slotting past compatriot Simon Mignolet.

Coupled with this careful manner was a sloppy display consisting of misplaced passes all night, the result of “losing formation and patience”, Klopp assessed post-match speaking to Sky Sports.

The Reds defence was disjointed, while Emre Can and James Milner failed to strike up a dominant partnership in midfield, which Hazard in particular exposed to cause Liverpool all manner of problems.

Klopp sought to rectify this by switching formation at half-time to a 4-4-2 diamond, which saw extra-attacking emphasis added and his side go on to enjoy increased control as the game progressed.

With that growing momentum, the push for a leveller strengthened as substitutes introduced – Joe Allen and Christian Benteke in particular – used the precious minutes handed to them to stake a claim to start to their advantage.

And the crucial impact arrived, with Sheyi Ojo’s cross headed home by Benteke after a misjudgement from Asmir Begovic to rescue a point, giving Klopp questions to answer over formation and selection before Wednesday’s showdown.

Much to Ponder for Klopp

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, May 11, 2016: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the Premier League match against Chelsea at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Going into the contest with the envisaged starting side in Basel, Klopp now has much to mull over following the impact of his own tactical switches and impacts of those introduced.

Though the back four picks itself with what’s currently available, midfield presents an issue that must be carefully considered.

Not for the first time Liverpool were breezed through in central areas, with Milner’s lack of positional discipline to sit in alongside Can leaving space to attack in front of the back four – something that cannot be afforded in St-Jakob Park.

Lacking control in midfield with Milner and Can as a two-man centre, Klopp could consider introducing Allen for his control which impacted proceedings once again on Wednesday night.

Playing the Welshman alongside Can and moving Milner into a wide attacking role where his running and crossing ability can be productive, could be considered.

Alternatively, the Reds boss could start with his go-to 4-4-2 diamond, with the shape able to afford extra defensive protection and support in attack.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, May 11, 2016: Liverpool's Christian Benteke scores a last-minute goal against Chelsea during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Doing so would free Sturridge up from carrying the burden of leading the line, and if Divock Origi proves his fitness between now and Wednesday, the youngster who has linked up for an exciting partnership with the England man previously, could provide the perfect foil.

That would be if Klopp overlooks the contribution of Benteke who notched his 10th goal of the season – a respectable total for the misfit summer arrival.

Selection and set-up seemed a straightforward process prior to the draw, but Klopp now has some interesting decisions to make.

Stick or Twist?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, May 11, 2016: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp giving instructions during the Premier League match against Chelsea at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Though it provides headaches for Klopp, the positive comes that he has a competitive squad all desperate for that chance of a starting berth next week.

If nothing else, the performances and impacts of the likes of Allen and Benteke – on a night Liverpool gave another showing of their never-say-die spirit under Klopp – combined with the potential returns of Origi and Jordan Henderson, gives the Reds boss the chance to plan for multiple scenarios.

How he decides to go is of course the crucial call – one that the 48-year-old must get right – and most vitally regardless of the display, he has no ill-timed injury concerns to contend with.

But despite the unimpressive audition from his expected Europa League final team, it still seems unlikely that Klopp will experiment in such a crucial match.

Should the same team be trusted, a much improved display will be needed to pick up the trophy and secure a Champions League return.

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