Finding the right balance in Liverpool’s midfield is Jurgen Klopp’s big challenge ahead of Sunday’s midday clash with Fulham at Anfield.
After another disappointing European trip, an immediate return to winning ways is vital for the Reds to keep the Premier League charge on track.
Klopp is almost certain to change his team in attempt to ensure that happens, after seeing his rotated side deliver a poor performance in defeat to Red Star.
Indeed, with three points an absolute must to keep the pace with title rivals, there can be no repeat of the errors made with selection or performance at Anfield.
So what changes could Klopp make to his starting XI and how could Liverpool line up against Fulham?
Team News & Possible Changes
A near full-strength squad is at Klopp’s disposal, with Jordan Henderson joining Naby Keita in being fit again after hamstring injury.
Those returns provide Klopp with plenty of options as the boss looks to address recent struggles in midfield.
In more good news, Klopp confirmed Joe Gomez is available after an Achilles issue.
Dejan Lovren should also return to involvement after missing the Red Star loss through illness.
Klopp is likely to make changes at Anfield and could do so with both system and personnel.
Joel Matip, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge could all drop back out of the starting XI.
Trent Alexander-Arnold could be considered for a rest after being withdrawn at half-time in Serbia.
Xherdan Shaqiri is almost certain to start having had time to recharge after being left out against Red Star.
Those who dropped out of the XI in Serbia—Gomez, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino—could all be recalled.
The Potential Lineups
Having seen his attempt to get by with a rotated team fail in Serbia it’s hard to see Klopp taking any gambles again—even against the Premier League’s bottom club.
The German must quickly find the formula to get his side firing, with deploying the right formation in attack and striking the right balance in midfield the two main priorities.
One way to do it could be revisiting the attacking 4-2-3-1 setup that brought good performances and results against Red Star and Cardiff before the last two winless games.
It especially makes sense given the full-power attack can be reassembled by reintroducing Shaqiri on the right, with Sadio Mane on the left, Firmino as No. 10 and Mohamed Salah up top.
If starting on Sunday is a step too far for Henderson and Keita, Gini Wijnaldum and Fabinho should form the double pivot having impressed previously.
And with Gomez available, the back four can return to full strength, as he can partner Virgil van Dijk, keeping Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson at full-back.
Klopp spoke in his press conference on how winning points is more important for Liverpool than the style in which they arrive this season.
The Reds totted up the wins efficiently if not fashionably at the start of the campaign, and Klopp will want to get back into that rhythm with immediate effect.
A key factor to that was a consistent, fully functional lineup, and those midfield options have now returned which could see Klopp rebuild that selection in search of rediscovering the winning touch.
At that time, Keita featured as part of a midfield trio with Wijnaldum and Milner, and that triumvirate could be reunited on Sunday.
It’s a unit which offers a good balance, plenty of energy and would also allow Henderson to ease his way back in after injury.
The front three of Mane, Salah and Firmino would operate as traditionally seen—with this perhaps slightly harsh on Shaqiri.
But further change could come in defence where Alexander-Arnold may be given a rest, which would see Gomez at right-back and Lovren partner Virgil van Dijk.
Sunday presents the ideal fixture for the Reds to respond to a disappointing defeat, and Klopp’s side must do that not only with victory but also a much-improved performance at Anfield.