Jurgen Klopp is sweating on the availability of a key defensive trio as Liverpool’s squad is stretched to the limit for Sunday’s clash with Crystal Palace.
After securing priceless back-to-back away wins, in-form Liverpool return to Anfield to continue the push for a top-four finish against Sam Allardyce’s relegation battlers.
A tough game awaits Liverpool against a Palace team who have also collected five wins from their last seven games, and the task is made extra difficult for the Reds who saw Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Lucas all struggle with injury this week.
Dejan Lovren is currently the only fully fit senior centre-back, leaving Klopp desperately hoping that the trio – who have all at least taken part in light training – recover to face the Mamadou Sakho-less Eagles.
- Klopp waiting on Matip, Klavan and Lucas but increasingly hopeful after each took part in light training
- But Klopp could yet have threadbare squad if the trio don’t recover
- Jordan Henderson unavailable and a doubt for the rest of the season
- Adam Lallana not yet ready but scheduled for full training return next week
- Lack of senior centre-backs could see Joe Gomez partner Lovren
- Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alberto Moreno further defensive alternatives
- Marko Grujic an option if Lucas fails to recover
- Klopp set to stick to 4-3-3 after West Brom win and with potential defender shortage
- Roberto Firmino’s fitness being carefully managed but Brazilian fit to play
- Divock Origi set to lead attack with Daniel Sturridge a doubt
Liverpool’s XI vs. The Eagles
For yet another game at a crucial stage of the season, Klopp will be forced to make late calls with his selection as he waits to see which of his touch-and-go defensive three can play.
The boss will afford Matip, Lucas and Klavan every opportunity to prove fitness, and with each having taken part in some training, Klopp will be hopeful he can include at least one, if not two of them.
That will especially be the case with the former pair, and if regular starters Matip and Lucas do recover, it’s almost certain they’ll continue in usual positions.
This would provide a huge boost as Klopp could therefore name an unchanged XI from the hard-fought win at West Brom, which would see a winning Reds side lineup at Anfield:
Piecing together a competitive team from a depleted squad has become a regular puzzle for Klopp, but Sunday’s challenge could prove the toughest yet if resources are indeed stretched to the limit.
The boss would have two crucial absences in Matip and Lucas to navigate, which could force a major reshuffle.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Klopp said Gomez could be his go-to option – which would see the youngster make a first league start since September 2015.
But with Klavan edging closer to fitness, the more regularly selected Estonian is likely to be preferred.
There is greater flexibility to cover Lucas’ absence with a couple of options for Klopp to consider, including handing the physically dominating Grujic a first start since October.
But the Serbian’s possible lack of match fitness, having not enjoyed first team action since November, is likely to see Alexander-Arnold restored which would spark a positional reshuffle.
The academy product could play Lucas’ holding role, but it’s more likely James Milner will join Gini Wijnaldum and deep-lying Emre Can in midfield, as recently seen in the Stoke comeback.
Nathaniel Clyne would then switch flanks to fill in at left-back, with Alexander-Arnold completing an altered back-line in his natural right-back slot.
Consistency will at least be retained in attack, where Coutinho and Firmino will continue to support Origi, and Klopp will hope his front three fire to ease pressure on makeshift defence and midfield units.
Liverpool battled superbly to collect crucial back-to-back wins on the road, and Klopp’s men must ensure that good work is followed up with another important victory at Anfield.