Liverpool face a tough-looking trip to Tottenham on Saturday lunchtime, and Jurgen Klopp has a number of selection decisions to make ahead of the game.
It has been a predictably inconsistent start to the season by the Reds, and this weekend’s showdown in north London feels absolutely crucial.
The wretched 2-0 defeat to Burnley last weekend ruined all the hard work that went into beating Arsenal 4-3, and another loss on Saturday would be a big blow so early in the season.
Liverpool cannot afford to be losing touch with the rivals this early in the campaign, but that could easily happen if they are not careful.
With Man City, Man United and Chelsea all likely to make it three wins out of three this weekend, being six points adrift by Sunday night doesn’t bear thinking about.
Klopp has some important calls to make on Saturday, in terms of his starting line-up, and we look at the three that stand out the most.
Who starts at centre-back?
Not since the days of Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia have Liverpool had any stability at centre-back, and Klopp simply must find a first-choice pairing this season.
Juggling your defensive pack time and time again does no good to anyone, as the last five years or so at Anfield have shown.
The shock news that Mamadou Sakho is set to be loaned out this month has set the cat amongst the pigeons, with nobody quite knowing what Klopp’s next move is in that area of his squad.
Dejan Lovren looks a certainty to start both on Saturday and moving forward, with Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan tussling for the other place in the team.
Matip impressed in the 5-0 win at Burton on Tuesday, in his first start for the club, but Spurs are a different kettle of fish, and could exploit his lack of match practice.
The early signs were certainly promising, though.
Klavan endured a poor afternoon at Burnley, defending dreadfully for Andre Gray’s goal and never looking settled, but he did do well against Arsenal.
It is not an easy decision, but the Liverpool manager should go with Lovren and Matip, with the Croatian slotting into a left-sided centre-back role.
Jordan Henderson as the holding midfielder?
Jordan Henderson‘s Liverpool career has been an intriguing one, ever since he made a £16million move from Sunderland in the summer of 2011.
Having recovered brilliantly from a poor start to life at Anfield, becoming a key player in 2013/14 and 2014/15, he looks to have regressed since picking up a number of injuries last season.
The 26-year-old has not looked at all happy in a defensive midfield role, and his passing has been so poor that two mock videos of his ‘highlights’ were created, after the Burnley and Burton games.
Henderson does have plenty to offer, namely box-to-box energy and unsung work of the ball, but there are now serious question marks over whether he should be starting on a regular basis.
Against Spurs, a lot will depend on whether Emre Can is fit, after he limped off with an ankle injury against Burton in midweek.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Thursday, Klopp suggested Can won’t be fit, meaning this particular decision is taken out of his hands at least for this match.
Klopp also said he has no issue with Henderson as the holding midfielder, claiming that against Arsenal “there was no issue with a holding midfielder, nearly all of the goals we conceded have been when we’ve lost possession.”
Henderson then looks set to start at the base of the midfield three but it is vital that he goes up a gear.
Sturridge or Firmino up front?
It is far more healthy to have competition for places rather than a lack of it, but Klopp really has his work cut out when it comes to keeping his strikers happy.
Daniel Sturridge has spoken about preference of a central role, but there is a lingering feeling that Klopp doesn’t see him as first-choice down the middle.
The England international is clearly an exceptional talent, but his current lack of legs and intensity work against him.
Divock Origi is one who is more suited to Klopp’s style, but he is yet to start a Premier League game for the Reds this season and looks set to miss this game due to cramp suffered in the late stages against Burton.
Then there’s Roberto Firmino, who occupied the lone strikers’ role against Arsenal and Burnley, with varying degrees of success.
With Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho certainties to feature on sides of the attack, it is tricky to find a place for both Firmino and Sturridge.
Every supporter will have their opinion on who should lead the line against Spurs, and it may well be Firmino who gets the nod, with Klopp liking his ability to press against big teams.
That will leave Sturridge as an impact substitute.