Jurgen Klopp could rotate his squad as Liverpool take on Newcastle on Boxing Day, three days before another vital Premier League clash at home to Arsenal.
The Reds welcome Rafa Benitez’s side to Anfield knowing victory would at least maintain their four-point lead at the top of the league after 19 games played.
Klopp has acknowledged it won’t be an easy ride, however, highlighting the importance of maintaining focus once again and urging his side to “stay angry, stay greedy, stay in the job.”
He is likely to expect this from a changed side on Wednesday, with the manager shuffling his pack as Liverpool navigate a busy festive schedule that will culminates with a trip to Man City on January 3.
Though he would be remiss to underestimate Newcastle, this is his opportunity to give some of those short on game time a chance, and rotation can be expected.
So how could the Reds line up against the Magpies on Boxing Day?
Team News & Possible Changes
Who is out? Gomez (leg), Matip (collarbone), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Brewster (knee)
Who could come in? Alexander-Arnold, Clyne, Moreno, Camacho, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Shaqiri, Sturridge, Origi, Solanke
Who could be rested? Milner, Robertson, Keita, Mane, Firmino, Salah
Speaking at Melwood on Christmas Eve, Klopp confirmed that Trent Alexander-Arnold had returned to full training after a foot injury, and that he expects Naby Keita to be involved too.
This would leave only Joe Gomez and Joel Matip as unavailable beyond long-term absentees Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rhian Brewster.
Therefore, the manager can focus on resting players who have been overexposed in the first half of the season, as he did in naming Gini Wijnaldum on the substitutes’ bench on Friday against Wolves.
He, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have all played over 2,000 minutes for club and country already this season, and it is likely they are in consideration to sit out.
Without Gomez and Matip there is little opportunity to omit Van Dijk, but the likes of Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana, Xherdan Shaqiri, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi are options to rotate elsewhere.
Klopp has included youngster Rafa Camacho on the substitutes’ bench in two games already this season, and could be an option at right-back is Alexander-Arnold isn’t passed fit to start.
But Nathaniel Clyne is the more likely candidate, with James Milner also available to fill in.
The Potential Lineups
After his match-winning cameo against Man United last weekend, it was something of a surprise to see Shaqiri again named on the bench for the 2-0 win over Wolves.
But he is a near-cert to start on Boxing Day, possibly allowing Klopp to rest one of his key forwards—particularly if he switches back to a 4-3-3 formation.
Even in keeping faith with the 4-2-3-1, he could afford to leave out Salah, with Sturridge an able deputy in the No. 9 role.
With Alisson, Van Dijk and Dejan Lovren all fit, Liverpool’s current defensive core can be retained, with Clyne and Moreno providing a balance of stability and attacking thrust at full-back.
The successful midfield pairing of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson could also be given another opportunity, and with Shaqiri and Sturridge coming in for Keita and Salah, the Reds may line up like this at Anfield:
(4-2-3-1) Alisson; Clyne, Lovren, Van Dijk, Moreno; Henderson, Fabinho; Shaqiri, Firmino, Mane; Sturridge
If more changes are required, Klopp could experiment with his defensive line, and with Fabinho his third-choice centre-back at present he could move back to take over from Lovren.
Alexander-Arnold’s return may see him start at right-back, along with Moreno at left-back, with Liverpool in line for a change of structure with the 4-3-3.
With Fabinho at centre-back, Henderson can adopt his familiar No. 6 role supported by Wijnaldum and Keita, while Roberto Firmino could be the one to drop out in attack as Shaqiri joins Mane and Salah.
This would provide Liverpool with the requisite height and strength at the back, along with enough bodies in midfield to cope with Newcastle‘s rigid approach.
And with Shaqiri and Mane flanking an in-form Salah in attack, the Reds should have enough firepower to secure an eighth consecutive league win:
(4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Moreno; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita; Shaqiri, Mane, Salah
It is more likely that Klopp sticks with the 4-2-3-1 that has proved so successful of late, and if that is the case minor changes may be on the horizon.
Fortunately for Liverpool, despite a spate of injuries at the back there are an array of options in midfield and attack, allowing the manager to rotate sensibly and still field a formidable starting lineup at Anfield.