Jurgen Klopp is likely to make changes as Liverpool complete their gruelling festive schedule at Sunderland, with Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi pushing for starting roles.
The Reds look to start the New Year against David Moyes’ struggling Mackems as they finished 2016, in what is their second game in under 48 hours.
Liverpool have negotiated the demanding run superbly so far with three straight wins, and Klopp’s side will need one more big effort in the north east to earn a fifth consecutive victory which would close the gap on Chelsea to just three points.
Given the ludicrously close proximity between the Man City win and Monday’s clash, Klopp will want to rotate his team to keep performance levels high, but his depleted squad means he has little room for manoeuvre.
- Klopp working with similar squad for Stadium of Light trip, limiting ability to rotate
- Changes likely to be made where possible for second game in three days
- Jordan Henderson doubtful for trip to boyhood club due to heel injury picked up in victory over City
- Joel Matip and Philippe Coutinho still missing with respective ankle problems
- Sadio Mane‘s final appearance before departing for African Nations Cup
- Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi pushing for starting places with Klopp open to deploying both
- Alberto Moreno and Lucas defensive options to utilise
- Kevin Stewart could earn start with midfield alternatives lacking
- Regular subs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ovie Ejaria hopeful of match action
Liverpool’s XI vs. The Black Cats
Klopp will barely have had the chance to consider selection for the Wearside clash, with minimal recovery and training time making things even more difficult.
The boss could therefore keep alterations to a minimum, and retain a consistent look that has helped his side produce some excellent results in the last four games.
Fresh legs will certainly be required though, and Klopp may turn to strikers Origi and Sturridge to provide, having admitted the game presents an “opportunity” to unleash the duo in tandem.
Who they replace in the starting XI is less clear, but Henderson’s injury should see him left out, allowing Lallana to drop back into midfield alongside Wijnaldum and Emre Can to play in the holding role.
With Mane leaving for the African Nations Cup after the game, Klopp should make the most of his availability by deploying him from the start and withdrawing Firmino instead, keeping the Brazilian for if and when needed.
Those two swaps would see Liverpool start like this:
However, Klopp may feel fresh legs need to be spread more evenly throughout the lineup, and could also use the game as the chance to prepare for the next month without Mane.
With this in mind, Moreno could enter at left-back to give Milner a brief respite, while in midfield, Klopp could recall Stewart to the deep-lying role, with Can and Wijnaldum forming the box-to-box partnership.
Operating this way would allow Liverpool to retain an energetic attacking lineup, with Lallana and Firmino flanking Origi, dropping Mane to the bench where the Senegalese and Sturridge offer impact quality to turn to.
These adjustments would see this XI start at the Stadium of Light:
The Reds have negotiated a tricky period perfectly so far, and Klopp’s side must use the momentum built up from some excellent wins to make the perfect start to 2017.