Liverpool’s Champions League tie with Maribor on Wednesday isn’t the right time to make wholesale changes, but is ideal for giving two summer signings a much-needed opportunity.
The Champions League returns on Wednesday evening, as Liverpool look to strengthen their hold on top spot in Group E.
Klopp’s men have picked up five points from a possible nine so far, and victory at Anfield in midweek will see a noticeable step towards knockout stage qualification.
With all due respect to Liverpool’s Slovenian opponents, this is a match the hosts should win comfortably, regardless of the personnel fielded.
Klopp will make some changes in order to keep his squad fresh, but with this game being crucial to securing a safe passage to the knockout stages, we shouldn’t expect a mass overhaul of the team that played against Huddersfield.
Low-key starts to Anfield life
Liverpool’s summer transfer business has been scrutinised to death, and Andre Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain‘s lack of playing time since joining has been a little bemusing.
Admittedly, Alberto Moreno‘s surprise improvement has made it hard for Robertson to feature, while the majority of the Reds’ strongest attacking players occupy roles Oxlade-Chamberlain is being trained to play.
In total, the pair have made just four starts between them, leading to frustration from many supporters and no doubt a similar feeling themselves.
Robertson has shone on the two occasions he has taken to the field, most notably in his man of the match performance against Crystal Palace in August.
There is a crispness to the Scot’s game that immediately catches the eye, and he could feel aggrieved that several superb crosses weren’t converted in the League Cup defeat at Leicester.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is looking more confident by the week, having arrived on Merseyside with his self-esteem at a low ebb.
Slowly but surely, the 24-year-old is looking the part, and scoring his first Liverpool goal in Slovenia earlier this month will have been a huge monkey off his back.
Wednesday provides a great opportunity for Liverpool’s two new recruits to get more minutes under their belt – quite frankly, if they’re not coming in for these matches, when are they going to start?
Moreno could do with a break and is still far from guaranteed to be first-choice left-back moving forward, and a wide berth should be made available for Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have made the joint-most appearances for Liverpool this season (15), and with a trip to West Ham to come on Saturday, at least one should be given the night off.
Predicting a Maribor XI
Away from Robertson and Oxlade-Chamberlain, there are several other individuals who it makes sense to throw into the side at Anfield.
Loris Karius‘ inclusion is a given, with Klopp confirming that his compatriot will be Liverpool’s Champions League goalkeeper in 207/18. He must start impressing if his Reds career is to be salvaged.
Trent Alexander-Arnold needs a run out in place of the impressive Joe Gomez, having found chances few and far between of late.
The youngster has only started two of the last eight matches, and Klopp will be aware of the right-back losing momentum after a very promising start to the season.
Gomez is an option alongside Joel Matip at centre-back, but assuming Dejan Lovren is still injured, Ragnar Klavan is the safe, more likely, choice.
Emre Can will likely return to the midfield after being left out against Huddersfield, with Jordan Henderson potentially afforded the night off, just as he was away in Slovenia. This would allow Can to play as the holding player.
Daniel Sturridge will be buoyant after scoring a much-needed goal on Saturday, but Klopp rarely plays the striker twice in quick succession.
But everyone associated with Liverpool needs to see a confident Sturridge, and he will be licking his lips at the thought of more goals against Maribor. He could start, with Firmino coming back in as No. 9 against West Ham.
Going out of the League Cup at the first hurdle was fairly disastrous for Liverpool’s fringe players and it has made it tough for Klopp to rotate his squad.
With every Premier League so important, it is always risky to ring the changes, and the same has generally applied in Europe.
This is a rare opportunity for the manager to experiment a little, though, against quite comfortably the weakest team the Reds have faced this season.
If they can’t win at home to Maribor with a few different faces in the team – new signings who Klopp clearly rates – they don’t merit progression to the knockout stages.
Robertson and Oxlade-Chamberlain are the two who are most in need of getting 90 minutes, and hopefully, their quality will come to the fore.
Possible Liverpool XI vs. Maribor: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Klavan, Robertson, Can, Milner, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sturridge.